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Policy and Regulation » Asia

Title: International Civil Society Statement of Concern on the Commercialization of Bt Brinjal
Publication date: December 13, 2013
Posting date: December 13, 2013

THIRD WORLD NETWORK BIOSAFETY INFORMATION SERVICE

Dear friends and colleagues,

Re: International Civil Society Statement of Concern on the Commercialization of Bt Brinjal

One hundred civil society organizations from around the world have written to the authorities in Bangladesh, urging them to suspend the planned commercialization of Bt brinjal in the country.

Please find the statement below.
 

With best wishes,

Third World Network
131 Jalan Macalister
10400 Penang
Malaysia
Email: twnet@po.jaring.my
Website: www.biosafety-info.net and www.twn.my
To subscribe to other TWN information services: www.twnnews.net 


 International Civil Society Statement of Concern on the Commercialization of Bt Brinjal

  

To: 

Sheikh Hasina

Prime Minister of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh

 

Dr Hasan Mahmud 

Minister for Environment and Forests

Ministry of Environment and Forests, People’s Republic of Bangladesh

 

Copy to:

Md Abdul Hamid

President of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh 

 

Begum Khaleda Zia

Leader of the Opposition

Parliament of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh

 

12 December 2013 

We, various non-governmental organizations, farmers’ organizations, consumer groups, and independent scientific organizations from different parts of the world, are writing to express our serious concerns over the planned commercialization of Bt brinjal, genetically engineered to produce a Cry1Ac-like toxin, in Bangladesh.  

This is the same Mahyco-Monsanto Bt brinjal that was stopped in India, and its history there is highly relevant. The self-assessed dossier submitted by Mahyco-Monsanto was subjected to a comprehensive appraisal by several leading international scientists who examined the raw data. They found that biosafety studies, which were claimed to have been conducted, were essentially not done. The international appraisal of the raw data was only made possible when the dossier was forced into the public domain by an Order of the Supreme Court of India. We are concerned that the same dossier may have been submitted to Bangladesh for approval, when it has been shown in India to be essentially fraudulent. 

WE RESPECTFULLY URGE YOU TO SUSPEND THE PLANNED COMMERCIALIZATION OF BT BRINJAL FOR THE FOLLOWING REASONS: 

1. Contamination and threats to biodiversity. Bangladesh has a vast native diversity of brinjal. As brinjal is largely cross-pollinated, transgene contamination poses a big problem in protecting the natural biodiversity as well as local varieties of brinjal. The Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety recognizes the crucial importance to humankind of centres of origin and centres of genetic diversity. Bangladesh, as a Party to the Cartagena Protocol and a centre of diversity of brinjal should therefore take a precautionary approach to Bt brinjal, and not approve its commercialisation.  

2. Food safety and the right to safe food.On 29 September 2013, the High Court of Bangladesh directed the government not to release Bt brinjal without assessing the possible health risks. The court ordered the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute (BARI), agriculture secretary and health secretary to submit a progress report within three months, after conducting independent research focusing on the health safety issues in line with the GM food standards set by the Codex Alimentarius Commission, a joint FAO-WHO body. 

An independent analysis by eminent international scientists, submitted to the Prime Minister, has said that “Bt Brinjal will have negligible benefit but would present an enormous hazard to human health. It would be profound disservice to Bangladesh if Bt Brinjal were allowed to enter her food supply.... There are at least four mechanisms by which the introduction of the Bt toxin gene into the Brinjal genome can cause harm. These include (1) the random insertion of the Bt gene into the plant DNA and the resulting unintended consequences, (2) alterations in crop metabolism by the Bt protein that results in new, equally unintended and potentially toxic products, (3) the direct toxicity of the Bt protein, and (4) an immune response elicited by the Bt protein”. 

It is clear that Bt Brinjal poses significant health risks and that further study is needed. 

3. Lack of information and consultation. We understand that civil society organizations within Bangladesh have requested the compiled toxicological test results from the accredited laboratories on mammals, fish, rabbits and the results of nutritional composition analysis of Bt brinjal as submitted to the Biosafety Core Committee. Unfortunately, we understand that this information has not yet been provided. In addition, we understand that there has been no public consultation on this issue. As a Party to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, Bangladesh has international legally-binding obligations to ensure access to information and public consultation in the decision-making process regarding living modified organisms such as Bt brinjal. 

Bt brinjal poses a serious threat to biodiversity and health, and this has been recognized by other countries in the region. In India, on 9 February 2010 after a series of public hearings and consultations with different stakeholders, the then Minister of Environment, Honorable Jairam Ramesh, imposed a moratorium on the release of Bt brinjal due to food safety, food security, and loss of biodiversity considerations. He said, “It is my duty to adopt a cautious, precautionary principle-based approach and impose a moratorium on the release of Bt-brinjal, till such time independent scientific studies establish, to the satisfaction of both the public and professionals, the safety of the product from the point of view of its long-term impact on human health and environment, including the rich genetic wealth existing in brinjal in our country.” 

In the Philippines, on 20 September 2013, the Court of Appeals (CA) upheld the ruling preventing the government from conducting field testing of Bt talong (brinjal). The decision of the Court of Appeals (17 May 2013) to stop the field testing of Bt talong was based on the Constitutional right to a balanced and healthful ecology. According to the CA, this right consists of: “(a) right to one's health which should not be put to risk by willful disturbance of ecological balance. This speaks of threats to human health which, in the case of bt talong field trials, had not yet been assessed and categorically declared as safe for humans. And (b) the right to live in an environment of balanced ecological relations which concerns the people's right to a balanced ecology which presupposes that all living things, as they are naturally ordained, are equally necessary to maintain the balance. x x x the field trials of Bt talong could not be declared by this Court as safe to human health and to ecology, with full scientific certainty, being an alteration of an otherwise natural state of affairs of ecology”. 

We, therefore, ask the Government of Bangladesh to: 

 1. Adopt a precautionary approach and suspend the commercialization of Bt brinjal as directed by the Bangladesh High Court. 

2.  Release all information related to the development and testing of Bt brinjal.  

3. Conduct meaningful and effective public consultation processes among the different stakeholders at the local and national levels, who will be affected by the possible release of Bt brinjal.

Signed by: 

1.      "No Patents on Life!", Germany

2.      Acción Ecológica, Ecuador

3.      Action Group on Erosion, Technology and Concentration (ETC) Group, Philippines

4.      Adivasi Aikya Vedika, (Alliance of Adivasi (Indigenous People)), India 

5.      African Centre for Biosafety, South Africa

6.      Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture (ASHA), India

7.      Anthra-Hyderabad, India 

8.      Anveshna, India

9.      AS-PTA Agricultura Familiar e Agroecologia, Brasil

10. Bangladesh Resource Centre for Indigenous Knowledge (BARCIK), Bangladesh

11. Bidhan Chandra Krishi Viswavidyalaya, India

12. BIOS Argentina

13. Bioscience Resource Project, USA

14. Canadian Biotechnology Action Network (CBAN), Canada

15. Careers Smart Pvt Ltd

16. Center for Indigenous Farming Systems, India

17. Center for the Analysis of Sustainable Agricultural Systems (CASAS), USA

18. Centre for Sustainable Development (CENESTA), Iran

19. Centre for Sustainable Rural Development (SRD), Vietnam

20. Coalition for a GM-Free India

21. Conferencia Plurinacional e Intercultural de Soberanía Alimentaria del Ecuador

22. Consumer Rights for Safe Food, Philippines

23. Consumers’ Association of Penang (CAP), Malaysia

24. Consumers Union of Japan

25. Council for Responsible Genetics, USA

26. CRIIGEN, France

27. Diverse Women for Diversity, India

28. Earth Open Source

29. earthSavers Movement

30. Ecological Society of the Philippines, Philippines

31. EcoNexus, United Kingdom

32. Equity BD, Bangladesh

33. Ethiopian Consumer Society (ECS)

34. European Network to Keep Seeds GMO Free

35. Farmer Initiatives for Ecological Livelihoods and Democracy (FIELD), Indonesia

36. Farmer-Scientist Partnership for Development (MASIPAG), Philippines

37. Federación de Centros Agrícolas y Organizaciones campesinas del Litoral (FECAOL), Ecuador

38. Food & Water Europe, United Kingdom

39. Food Sovereignty Ghana

40. FOODwatch, Australia

41. For the Upliftment of Moral, Economic, Technological, Socio-Spiritual Aspirations of Persons (METSA), Philippines

42. Forum Against Monopoly Aggression (FAMA), India

43. Foundation For Research in Science Technology & Ecology, India 

44. Friends of the Earth Costa Rica

45. Friends of the Environment in Negros Oriental (FENOr), Philippines

46. Gene Ethics, Australia

47. GENESYS Foundation, Inc.

48. GeneWatch UK

49. GM Freeze, United Kingdom

50. GM-Free Cymru (GM-Free Wales)

51. GM Watch, United Kingdom

52. Go Organic Mindanao (GOM), Philippines

53. Green Foundation, India

54. Greenpeace East Asia

55. Greenpeace Greece

56. Greenpeace India

57. Greenpeace International

58. Health of Mother Earth Foundation, Nigeria

59. Initiative for Health & Equity in Society, India

60. Institute of Science in Society, United Kingdom

61. Instituto de Ecología, Mexico

62. Instituto de Estudios Ecologistas, Ecuador

63. Inter Pares, Canada

64. Interface Development Interventions (IDIS, Inc), Philippines

65. JATAN, India

66. JINUKUN – COPAGEN, Benin

67. LabelGMOs.org, USA

68. Lok Sanjh Foundation, Pakistan

69. MADGE Australia Inc

70. Mediation & Project Management Agrobiodiversity, Germany

71. MELCA, Ethiopia

72. Millennium Institute, USA 

73. Mojo Plantation and Spice Farm, India

74. National Consortium for Nature and Forest Conservation in Indonesia (KONPHALINDO)

75. Navdanya, India

76. Negros Island for Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development Foundation, Inc (NISARD), Philippines

77. Network for a GE Free Latin America (RAALT), Colombia

78. NGO Association for Agricultural Research Asia Pacific (NAARAP), India

79. NGOs Forum Network, Cambodia

80. No! GMO Campaign, Japan

81. Peruvian Association of Consumers and Users (ASPEC), Peru

82. Pesticide Eco-Alternatives Center (PEAC), China

83. Red de America Latina Libre Transgenicos (RAALT), Ecuador

84. Red de Ecologistas Populares, Ecuador

85. Research Centre for Gender, Family and Environment in Development (CGFED), Vietnam

86. Safe Food Alliance, India

87. Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) – Friends of the Earth Malaysia.

88. Save Our Seeds, Germany

89. SHISUK, Bangladesh

90. Social Action Center – Marbel, Philippines

91. Soil Association, United Kingdom

92. Southeast Asian Council for Food Security & Fair Trade (SEACON), Malaysia

93. Southeast Asia Regional Initiatives for Community Development (SEARICE)

94. Sunray Harvesters, India

95. Tanzania Alliance for Biodiversity

96. Third World Network (TWN)

97. UBINIG, Bangladesh

98. Vigilance OGM, Canada

99. Washington Biotechnology Action Council, USA

100.          Yakshi, India


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