Kerala

Minister objects to Biotechnology Bill

Kerala Minister for Agriculture Mullakkara Retnakaran has expressed strong reservations about the Biotechnology Regulatory Bill approved by the Union Cabinet recently.

In a letter to Union Minister of Agriculture Sharad Pawar seeking his intervention, Mr. Retnakaran objected to the move to centralise and vest a three-member Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India with full powers to take all decisions related to biotechnology including introduction of genetically modified crops and foods in the country.

Terming the provisions of the Bill as draconian, he said that the even representatives of the Ministries of Agriculture and Environment and Forests were not proposed to be included in the Authority. Besides, the Bill sought to curtail freedom of expression and punish anyone who records any view against introduction of any genetically modified crop or food. Even peaceful demonstration against introduction of genetically modified crops could attract imprisonment and fine.

The Minister told The Hindu that serious consultations with States, experts and the people should be undertaken before enacting the legislation. The biodiversity of the country was varied, and it was not even the governments but people who protected this diversity. The responsibility of protecting the biodiversity should remain with the States.

Mr. Retnakaran noted that the Bill proposed centralisation of authority contrary to the tendency to decentralise decision making. The powers of the State to take policy decision on matters related to agriculture was being sought to be trampled upon.

He said that he would soon be writing to the members of the Parliament from the State to oppose the provisions of the Bill in Parliament. Though he had communicated his objections to the Centre earlier, they had received due consideration.

In his earlier communication, Mr. Retnakaran had said that almost all the provisions of the Bill were undemocratic and authoritarian. Commercial interest of the corporate bodies was given prime protection. Commercial information was exempted from disclosure even under the Right to Information Act. Independent Research on genetically modified crops was not allowed, as the entire research was to be done only by those organisations notified by the Biotechnology Authority.

“We are sure; you would agree with me that the destiny of India’s agriculture cannot be left to a three member Authority with unlimited powers and unquestionable freedom, that too without an iota of accountability and transparency,” he said.


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Printable version | Jul 25, 2021 5:46:33 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/Minister-objects-to-Biotechnology-Bill/article16148417.ece

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