Farm activists have demanded immediate action against officials responsible for spreading seeds of BT brinjal and its genetically modified (GM) variants in the country.
In a letter to the Environment Ministry on Saturday, a group of farm activists demanded the government hold officials of Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) responsible for allegedly failing to implement decisions taken in 2010 with regard to confiscation and containment of banned seeds lying with the crop developer and state agriculture universities.
"We demand the government immediately swing into action and fix liability on the crop developer and others responsible in a deterrent fashion so that this culture of impunity with regard to leaking of seeds and spreading of illegal cultivation of GMOs towards delivering a fait accompli be addressed decisively, by invoking sections 15, 16 and 17 of the Environment Protection Act, 1986 (EPA)," it said.
The activists also demanded the ministry to direct all state governments to conduct investigations regularly on aubergine cultivation in their respective states.
"We demand the ministry now write to all state governments under the EPA 1986 Act as well as the 1989 rules related to genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and hazardous micro-organisms, activating the State Biotechnology Coordination Committees (SBCCs), asking them to take up time-bound investigations on brinjal cultivation in their respective states and ascertaining if illegal Bt brinjal cultivation is taking place.
"The use of simple formats for data collection through frontline department officials and lateral flow strip test kits for preliminary field-level testing may be included in the instructions," it said.
Recently, the members of Coalition of GM-free India had alleged Bt brinjal, a genetically modified food crop, was being grown and sold illegally in a farm in Haryana and they demanded immediate action against it by the state and central government.
Representatives of the Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture (ASHA) had said that based on a tip-off, they picked up samples from the field of a farmer in Haryana's Fatehabad area and the crop tested positive for Bt Cry1Ac protein.
In its letter on Saturday, the farm activists demanded liability of GEAC officials and crop developer Mahyco be fixed.
"For any illegal cultivation of Bt brinjal found in India, the crop/event developer should be held responsible as we demanded in 2010 itself, and it is clear that Mahyco and the two state agriculture universities have to be investigated immediately.
"It can be assumed that these entities are not responsible only if other illegal seed supply chains are established firmly by Haryana government's investigations into the matter," the letter said.
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