Daily Special Current Affairs Material for IAS (Pre) 2013
Chapter: National Issues
Topic: Unconstitutional, Unethical,
Q. What are the flaws and deficiencies of proposed BRAI Bill?
Ans. It is now widely
accepted that the existing procedure in India (and even elsewhere) for
regulation of genetic engineering technology is faulty and insufficient. It was
for this reason that Jairam Ramesh, then Minister for Environment and Forests,
put an indefinite moratorium on the open release of genetically engineered Bt
brinjal, which was approved by the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee of the
Ministry on October 14, 2009.
The Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India (BRAI) Bill,
proposed to be put up to Parliament, claims to take care of the deficiencies in
the existing system of approval of genetically modified (GM) crops.
As it turns out, the Bill is unconstitutional, unethical,
unscientific, self- contradictory, and not people-oriented. It suffers from
greater flaws and deficiencies than the present system. If passed, it will
seriously and adversely affect agriculture, health of humans and animals, and
the environment, causing unparalleled harm.
The above Contents are the part of our on going programme of Special Current
Affairs Material for IAS (Pre) 2013. Which consist:
- 4 Booklets
- In 1250+ Pages
- Will Cover 90 - 95% of Current Affairs and Conceptual Based
Questions of IAS (pre.) 2013
- Will Get Online Coaching Special Classes.
- Will Get Printed 3100+ MCQs
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- These Materials Covered Gist of Editorial & Articles of The Hindu,
News of The Hindu, Gist of Press Information Bureau Articles, Gist of
India Year Book & Economic Survey, Government Plans Programme &
Policies, Important Materials on Environment & Ecology
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Article 28 of the Bill states the information declared by
BRAI “confidential commercial information” will not come under the RTI Act,
and there is no way civil society can challenge its decision to declare any
information confidential. In spite of the fact that BRAI encompasses
activities that would virtually affect every Indian, there is no mention in
the Bill of public consultation.
Articles 81, 86 and 87.2, which allow BRAI to override any
existing law in the areas covered by BRAI, contradict Article 86, which says
“the provisions [of BRAI] shall be in addition to, and not in derogation of, any
other law for the time being in force.”
The definition of modern biotechnology in Article 3 (r) is
absurd as it excludes a large number (over 25) of areas such as peptide
synthesis, immuno-technology, tissue culture, stem cells and nano-biotechnology
that are an integral part of today’s biotechnology. Not only that, it would make
techniques that are used in everyday research in modern biology such as
isolation or sequencing of DNA and the PCR technique illegal, unless approved by
BRAI in every specific case. So every university in the country teaching these
extremely widely used techniques will have to get BRAI permission for teaching
them to undergraduate and postgraduate students.
Funnier is the inclusion in Schedule I (which lists organisms
and products “which should be regulated by the Authority”) of cloned animals,
DNA vaccines, and stem cell-based products. There is no mention of them in the
main text of the Bill. Schedule 1 also includes “products of synthetic biology
for human or animal use.” I have been in the business of modern biology for six
decades and seen the modern biological evolution from very close quarters with
more than 20 of my friends having won Nobel prizes but, for the life of me, I
cannot make out what is meant by “products of synthetic biology.”
In fact, if one strictly followed item 2(d) of Schedule 1, no
organ transplantation would be possible in the country without BRAI permission!
There is no provision in the Bill for an independent testing
laboratory for GM crops, in which civil society would have confidence. There is
no mention of mandatory labelling of GM food products, and there is no
protection provided to, say, farmers whose fields growing, for example products
of organic agriculture, get contaminated with a GM product of the neighbouring
Article 62 under “Offences and Penalties” is unprecedented.
It implies that anyone making a statement about a GM crop which BRAI decides is
false or misleading, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may
extend up to three months and also with a fine which may extend to Rs. 5 lakh.
BRAI will not be obliged to state the basis of its decision which is not
challengeable by any member of civil society. The Bill thus assumes that all the
wisdom of biotechnology lies with the five members of the Authority, and what
thousands of leading scientists say will cut no ice with the members of BRAI.
As of today, at least five States (Bihar, Madhya Pradesh,
Kerala, Karnataka and Himachal Pradesh) have formally declared that they will
not allow field trials and/or open release of any GM crop. So, the present
system had to be disabled, and roadblocks to fulfilling the ambition of the U.S.
and the seed MNCs removed.