|A Call for creating an Independent network of Indian scientists for social and Ecological responsibility|
Navdanya /Research Foundation for Science Technology and Ecology organized an interactive session of scientists and public citizens on ‘GMO's, Biosafety and Politics of Science’ at Indian International Center, New Delhi on 18th December 2012. Students, experts, scientists, environmentalists and politically active citizens attended the meeting and participated in the debate on the influence of vested commercial interests on science and its consequences for society.
I shared my experiences based on 25 years of involvement with the campaign against Genetically Modified Organisms(GMOs) and the politics of science. My main focus was on the domination of the biotech industry and the fraudulent science in the push of GMOs and how the voice of independent science is being systematically silenced. Scientists like Dr Arpad Pusztai and Dr. Ignacio Chapela had been attacked by biotech industry and their allies because their studies revealed the adverse impact of GMOs on environment and human health. The latest example is Professor Gilles-Eric Seralini, from Cane University, France, who’s research found that rats fed on Monsanto’s Roundup ready GM maize NK603 developed higher levels of cancer.
The situation is more or less similar in India. For instance, the Government has opposed the recommendation by Technical Expert Committee (TEC) of the Supreme Court to impose a ten years' ban on GM field trials of all crops.TEC made this recommendation citing grave inadequacies in the present regulatory system and a need for additional toxicity tests to ensure biosafety. However, the Government has said it would not be able to meet the first millennium development goal without GM technology and added that a moratorium of 10 years would take the country 20 years back in scientific research.
Dinesh Abrol, National Institute of Science Technology and Development Studies, India’s premier institute on science policy, spoke about the bias in institutional science, especially with in the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR). The institution is blindly promoting agro biotechnology and ignoring the proven potential of agro ecology. Dr Mira Shiva , medical scientist and health expert, Initiative for Health, Equity and Society, pointed out that today’s biotech industry is the same as the pharmaceutical and agro-chemical industry. They have a track record of manipulating the science on safety and victimizing scientists and experts who do independent research on safety of drugs pesticides and genetically modified organisms. Pinky Anand, senior Supreme Court advocate, who has represented Navdanya and Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology in many cases, described how the courts are being compelled to uphold health and safety at a time when the research system and the government was failing the public. V Siddhartha, eminent science policy expert, called for a removal of the distortion in the political economy of science. Also present for the conference were S Jalaji, former secretary, Indigenous System of Medicines, Government of India, Krishan Bir Chaudhary, Chairman, Bharat Krishak Samaj, one of the prominent farmers organizations in India.
The need was felt to organize the voice of independence and integrity in Science. We therefore invite you to join the ‘Network of Indian Scientists for Social and Ecological Responsibility’. If you are a scientist from any field that impact ecology and public health please write to us and join the network. While we strengthen our democracy and the integrity and independent science, people also need to have access to safe GMO and chemical free food. At present, majority of the corn sold in the Indian market is Monsanto’s hybrid corn. This is the case for many fruits and vegetables resulting in total disappearance of native varieties from the markets, and with it access to safe organic food. Therefore, Navdanya also invites every citizen concerned about the Earth, our farmers, and your health to join the campaign ‘Know your food, Know your farmer’, so that together every Indian citizen became active in shaping a safe, sustainable, democratic food system.
Dr Vandana Shiva