KeralaViews did not know whether GM food is safe. Till recently, we thought that the introduction of the GM food would not be desirable until the technology is proven. But, now we are sure that it is indeed dangerous. Otherwise, the government, or precisely those driving the government, would not have thought of a legislation to gag its critics.
The National Biotechnology Regulatory Authority (NBRA) Bill proposes jail for those who “misleads public about safety of the organisms and products” listed in its schedules, without any evidence or scientific record. The schedules cover genetically engineered vaccines for use in humans and animals, cellular products including products composed of human, bacterial or animal cells as well as genetically engineered micro- organisms that may have application in agriculture, fisheries, forestry or food production. The punishment proposed is imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than six months but which may extend to one year and with fine which may extend to two lakh rupees or both.
Though the provisions in the Bill are talking about “those who mislead”, they sure to be used against any critic of genetically modified food and other genetically engineering products. As to evidence and scientific record, we know that the main criticisms against GM crops and other products is the absence of evidence and scientific data. The Bill also has provisions that would prevent the public from obtaining such data from public funded scientific institutions under Right to Information Act. From the history of litigation by multinationals, we know that any campaigner would face legal actions with such provisions in the statute book.
The farmers would not be able to speak out though often they would be the first to see evidence of damage done by GM foods. But what they say would not be taken as authentic evidence. Thus ill-effects of GM crops would be hidden from public for long. The surprise is that such a measure is happening in a democratic country like India.