BRAI Bill proposes to create a new regulatory body

Even as the area around Parliament was swamped by crowds of Anna Hazare's supporters, demanding a stronger Lokpal Bill on Wednesday, a small group of environmental activists staged their own demonstration against a different bill, the Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India (BRAI) Bill, 2011.

Science and Technology Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh was scheduled to introduce the controversial BRAI Bill in the Lok Sabha, but the House did not conduct regular business due to the debate held on Mr. Hazare and the government's response to his agitation. The BRAI Bill proposes to create a new regulatory body which its opponents claim would be a single window clearance system for genetically modified crops.

“The BRAI Bill is a blatant attempt to bulldoze through the public resistance and genuine concerns about genetically modified crops, and to deny state governments their constitutional authority over Agriculture and Health,” according to Kavitha Kuruganti of the Coalition for a GM-Free India.

Environmemtal group Greenpeace said several of its volunteers were arrested by Delhi Police as they were attempting to unfurl a banner just outside Parliament. The banner read: “Don't Corrupt our Food, Stop BRAI Bill”.

Activists say that since the Science and Technology Ministry's Biotechnology Department is mandated to promote the technology, it would be a conflict of interest if it was also responsible for regulating it and ensuring biotech safety. They want the BRAI to be a monitoring body under the Ministry of Health or Environment and Forests.