Ms. Aruna Rodrigues describes herself as an ordinary citizen of India. And yet, she has taken on an extraordinary endeavour. She has, through a writ petition in the supreme court of India, challenged the Government of India, no less, in its reckless promotion of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO). She hopes to have the court to put a stop to bringing in all GMO, and set up completely independent regulatory body that can be influenced neither by the politicians nor by the biotech industry, to conduct safety tests on these GMO against possible risk to humans as well as natural biodiversity of the nation.
She started on that case about ten years ago, and it took her two years to gather sufficient data to file the case, in 2005. The famous case is now drawing to a close, and many feel that she has an even chance, and some claim it is better than an even chance, that she might succeed.
At stake here might be the very future of India’s food security and food sovereignty. There has been many in recent years that claim that India’s science and commercial institutions are being used to solve American problems, often at the disadvantage of India’s own interests. Some claim that this agenda comes high up from the Govt, and that it may be a sell-off of national interest for the purpose of assisting foreign commercial goals.
Of relevance here ia a special clause in the Indian constitution, in article 32, which might be unique to India and absent in other democracies, which gives the power to an ordinary citizen of India, to challenge the Government in the Supreme Court, if the citizen’s basic and fundamental rights, as guaranteed in the constitution, are infringed upon by the Government.
Also of relevance is the Cartagena Convention on Biological Diversity, often called the Cartagena Protocol, which came into force in 2003 and to which India is a signatory. This protocol seeks to protect the biological diversity of individual nations, against possible threat by introduced Living Modified Organisms (LMO) created by the Biotech industry, and which might be imported through trade negotiations. This protocol in fact became the binding international agreement on Biosafety. The Protocol stipulates, among other things, that parties shall consult the public in decision-making processes and place important decisions in this regard in the public domain. India, in spite of having signed it, may not have followed the protocol in the manner in which it promoted GMO.
And so, I had requested Aruna for a telephone talk on record, for the purpose of creating a public awareness podcast on this important issue, which affects not just India, but literally half the world. The famous court case is drawing to a close. There are many that hope, myself included, that she might actually win the case, and force the Government of India in doing what is right for the people of India, and stop this reckless introduction of untested and possibly unsafe GMO products to promote interests of foreign biotech corporations.
The under 19 minute podcast can be listened to by clicking the play button at the bottom of this page. Alternately, folks can also subscribe to my podcast from iTunes, and have it downloaded for listening at leisure through their iPhone or iPod etc.
My thanks go to Ms Aruna Rodrigues for allowing me to speak to her on a short notice.
I shall be happy to receive your feedback – at email@example.com
- Order of the Supreme Court in 2012, about formation of expert committee : http://indiankanoon.org/doc/126946252/
- PDF copy of the original interim report from the Expert Committee, as submitted to the Supreme Court of India in 2012, essentially recommending that field trials of GMO be stopped till instruments are put in place and independent safety assessment study can be done effectively : http://indiagminfo.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/SC-TEC-interim-report-oct17th-2012-GMO-PIL.pdf
- A report from Hindu, in 2012, about the first (interim) report of the expert committee to the Supreme court, essentially recommending a 10 year ban on all field trials of GMO : http://indiankanoon.org/doc/126946252/
- A report from David Andow (one of the scientist whose report was presented to the Indian supreme court) on Bt.Brinjal : https://groups.google.com/forum/?fromgroups#!topic/science_acj/Xu3sTURqQk
- Article from Raw Earth Living on Bt. Brinjal : http://rawearthliving.wordpress.com/2010/02/25/legal-cases-laid-ground-for-gmo-bt-brinjal-ban-india/
- Cartagena Protocol : http://bch.cbd.int/protocol/text/
- List of Signatories to the Cartagena Protocol (note USA and Canada are almost the only countries missing) : http://bch.cbd.int/protocol/parties/