Thursday, December 22, 2011

Urgent Opening - Secretariat Coordinator, Coalition For GM-Free India

About Coalition: The Coalition for a GM-Free India is a loose, informal network of scores of organizations and individuals from across India, campaigning and advocating to keep India GM-Free, and to shift our farming towards a sustainable path. Consisting of farmers', consumers', environmental, women's and other organizations, this network is opposed to the environmental release of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) given the potential adverse health and environmental impacts, in addition to the fact that GMOs also are taking away valuable research and other resources from more lasting solutions.

Given that GMOs and associated IPRs are used by corporations to control and expand their monopolistic markets, we are opposed to GMOs on those grounds too. The Coalition also looks at GM technology as an illustrative case for the need to democratize Science & Technology policy/decision-making, empowering individual citizens to have their right to informed choices.

The Coalition for a GM-Free India has been working since 2006 and is a constantly expanding force of citizens saying NO to GMOs in our food and farming, here in India.

The Coalition is seeking to strengthen its network and stepping up its campaign work and accordingly desires to set up a Secretariat in New Delhi. The Coalition is looking for a Coordinator who will manage the Secretariat, reporting to the Convenor of the network and thereby, taking forward Coalition’s main mandate at the national level, of keeping India GM free.

The Coalition works in close liaison with another civil society network called Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture (ASHA). The Secretariat Coordinator would be working together with the Coordinator of ASHA.

The desirable qualities expected in the Secretariat Coordinator are:

-- Should be self-driven towards the cause of opposing GM technology and to the larger cause of protecting Indian agriculture;
-- Should be hard-working with the ability to handle the dynamic nature of campaign work having varying workloads from time to time;
-- Should have a flair for networking and ability to building liaisons with similar like-minded groups;
-- Should have a clear understanding of the issues related to GM technology, such as seed sovereignty, environmental hazards, corporate control, loss of biodiversity, etc., along with a fair knowledge of the current status of GM debate in India and its implications in near and long-term future;
-- Should also have a basic understanding as how the GM issue relates to the wider context of Indian agriculture;
-- Should have excellent communication skills in English and Hindi (additional language skills will be good), especially with the need of communicating with various members of the Coalition across the country
-- Should have decent writing skills in English as well as Hindi (any other Indian language is an added advantage of course); and
-- Should have some prior campaign/advocacy experience in the capacity of a full-timer/volunteer (Please elaborate this portion, while sending the application form)

We invite any eligible person who has the passion to work for the cause of making India GM-Free and has the ability to consistently work towards taking the campaign ahead. A graduate/post-graduate degree in the relevant field is preferable, but is not a restriction for applying.

The Role of the Secretariat Coordinator would be the following:

-- To take care of all the work at the Secretariat level, including correspondence with various members and external stakeholders;
-- To enable logistics for any national level workshops, events, direct actions, press conferences, etc. for the campaign work;
-- To take up some campaigning roles on issues of GMOs, seed sovereignty, corporate control over Indian agriculture, safe food, etc. Such campaigning roles would include appropriate research work, lobbying, media outreach, etc.;
-- To work on building outreach programs to reach out to different Student Groups, Citizen Groups, RWAs, Farmer Groups, Other NGOs, etc. with the aim of educating the wider public about the threat from GM technology. This task would require organizing documentary screenings, public consultations, public debates, lecture sessions, etc., along with building a volunteer base for Coalition’s work;
-- To represent Coalition in various fora and events at national level, along with traveling outside Delhi, when needed;
-- To take up work for creation/pooling of appropriate IEC materials for the GM-Free campaign, including collating such materials from different members/groups across several states; and
-- To prepare write-ups, press releases, articles related to the campaign from time to time, along with maintaining blog and website for the purpose of content generation

If you are interested and think that you are an appropriate candidate for this challenging post, kindly send your resumes to Nishank (Mob No: 9015867930) at, with the subject line clearly mentioning ‘Application for Secretariat Coordinator of Coalition for GM-Free India’ by Jan 10th 20. Please also make sure that you send a 750-word note on “Why GM Crops are a threat to Indian agriculture?” along with the application form. Please also provide three references in your resume.

P.S.: We need to fill-up this position as soon as possible, and it would be desirable if the selected candidate can take up the new role, preferably before the end of January 2012.

The Salary for the position of Coordinator is approx. 20K.


Thursday, August 25, 2011

Press Release: “Government sabotaging Public Debate on Genetically Modified (GM) Crops by the introduction of BRAI Bill”:

Press Release: Coalition for a GM-Free India

Government sabotaging Public Debate on Genetically Modified (GM) Crops by the introduction of BRAI Bill”:

No Vision for Sustainable Development, No Transparency, No Public Consultation, No Role for State Governments, No Biosafety Guarantees, No Needs Analysis, No Impact Assessment and No effective Liability and Redressal mechanisms in the BRAI Bill” say Civil Society groups, farmers’ unions and legal experts

New Delhi, 24th August 2011: Civil Society organisations, legal experts and farmer unions came together today to voice their opposition to the proposed Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India (BRAI) Bill 2011 which they pointed out is a blatant and unscrupulous attempt by the Central Government to bulldoze the ongoing vibrant public debate in India and the serious concerns regarding human health, environmental safety and seed/food sovereignty issues surrounding the technology of Genetically Modified (GM) crops. The groups released a critique of the BRAI Bill and pointed out that this Bill is an egregious piece of legislation, that has scant regard for the norms of democracy - transparency, need for public consultation, recognition of the constitutional authority of the states over matters of health and agriculture - and the total absence of any substantial measures within the bill to address any aspects related biosafety. They pointed out that the introduction of the Bill by, and housing of the Authority in the Ministry of Science & Technology, whose mandate is to promote the development of GM crops, reeks of conflict of interest and is a sure recipe for corruption and an inherent bias in decision-making.

“In the last two years, since the opening up of the public debate on GM crops in India, and the independent scientific scrutiny of data and studies related to Bt Brinjal, it has been revealed many times over that GM crops could expose public health and environment to hitherto unknown dangers. Findings from recent studies, like the one from Canada that has found Bt toxins in the placenta of women and in the blood should ring alarm bells about this technology. Yet the Ministry of Science and Technology, instead of calling for a moratorium on this technology, till its safety is fully established, is going ahead and opening up the doors to speed up the spread of this technology in the country with this proposed unconstitutional, draconian bill that will establish a single window clearance mechanism for GM crops” said Sridhar R, Convener, Coalition for a GM Free India. “The Bill will sabotage the healthy debate that is happening in India on GM crops, and will be a serious hindrance to all other sustainable options that can ensure safe and healthy ways of ensuring food security” he added.

In the recent past, it has been rightly accepted by the Environment Ministry and institutionalized by the GEAC that in India’s federal structure, the states have a right to determine whether they want to allow open air field trials or not. Many States Governments have already rejected permissions for open air field trials. The proposed bill should have built on the progress made through trial and error and should have improved on the existing regulatory regime; it is instead a retrograde piece of legislation which is based on the reductionist principle of treating the issue of GMOs as a mere technological one, to be decided upon by a small group of technical experts.

“During the short history of GM crops in the country since efforts began to introduce Bt cotton, the only commercially approved GM crop in our country, there has been strong resistance from citizens in the country, reflected in the public debate on Bt brinjal last year. If the government is still going ahead full steam on promotion of transgenics, disregarding such resistance, then there is no doubt about whose side it is on. The BRAI Bill, by its lax procedures and clearing house approach, will surely jeopardize this country’s seed sovereignty and endanger the productive resources of farmers, on which their very livelihoods depend. As can be seen with a decade of Bt cotton, cost of cultivation is increasing, with seed cost increasing exorbitantly; in regions like Vidarbha, farm suicides have actually increased after the entry of Bt cotton even though it was promoted as a silver bullet to the farmers of cotton farmers there”, said Yudhvir Singh, Leader of the Bharatiya Kisan Union and National Coordinator of the Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers' Movements.

“The Biosafety protection regime in the country should naturally follow the Cartagena Protocol under the Convention on Biological Diversity, which lays down progressive principles like precautionary approach, democratic decision-making with public consultations etc. Till date the Environmental Protection Act (EPA1986, Rules 1989) was the legal framework and the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) the apex regulatory body under the Ministry of Environment and Forests. Now the proposed BRAI Bill is an unconstitutional attempt by the government to take this away from the MOEF with the primary mandate of environment protection and vest it into the Science and Technology Ministry whose focus is promotion of biotechnology. This is not just an issue of conflict of interest but a denial of the correct mandate for a regulator – namely biosafety, public health and environmental protection.” said Colin Gonsalves, Senior Advocate of the Supreme Court of India.

“One of the major concerns is the overarching powers that the regulatory authority is granted on withholding essential information like biosafety studies of GM crops. The clause 28 of the proposed BRAI bill asserts that such information can be considered as commercial confidential information and Authority can even override the Right to Information Act, 2005, on public requests for such data. This is completely unacceptable and regressive. If everything is safe with GM crops, why should the Bill even have clauses around withholding information or officials having to take an oath of secrecy? It is apparent from the world over that wherever informed debates have been allowed on the matter of transgenics, citizens have strongly rejected the technology. This is what the government is afraid of and this Bill is an attempt to muzzle such informed debates.Nothing can be more undemocratic than this move by the govt." said Sri Vijay Pratap, Convenor, South Asian Dialogues on Ecological Democracy (SADED).

Speakers in the press conference demanded that the Government desist from introducing this seriously flawed, narrow, technocratic BRAI Bill, and formulate a holistic and effective Biosafety Protection legislation under the aegis Ministry of Environment and Forests or Ministry of Health & Family Welfare or both, with an independent and credible inter-ministerial regulatory framework. It should be as articulated by the 2004 Task Force Report on Agricultural Biotechnology where the bottom line for the regulatory policy would be “the safety of the environment, the well being of farming families, the ecological and economic sustainability of farming systems, the health and nutrition security of consumers, safeguarding of home and external trade and the biosecurity of the nation”. They also demanded that neither the introduction of GM crops nor a regulatory bill to bulldoze its introduction be brought in until the debate on GM crops is resolved and the safety is fully established, under scientific and public scrutiny.

For more information:

Sridhar Radhakrishnan – ;

Kavitha Kuruganti - ;

Nishank - ; 09015867930

Friday, July 29, 2011

GM Free Bihar Asks Crop Developers To Quit Bt Brinjal Expert Group

“No one can be judge in his own case”

April 25th 2011, Patna: Ahead of a crucial meeting of a newly-constituted Expert Group to review Bt Brinjal, the GM-Free Bihar Movement has asked the members of the panel to recuse themselves from decision making as their presence was in conflict of interest. It also cited latest evidence on the toxicity and inadequate biosafety assessment of Bt brinjal, urging the government to reject the Bt brinjal biosafety dossier in toto.

Bihar had become the first state to say no to genetically modified brinjal, a stand that had led the Centre to declare a moratorium on its commercial release in January 2010. Recently also, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar had taken strong exceptions to field trials of Bt Maize. But if the expert group meeting goes ahead, it will be for the first time that an official review of the controversial crop would happen on April 27.

“We would like this so-called ‘expert group’ to look at the very need for Bt brinjal given that many alternatives exist to chemical pesticides without having to resort to genetically modified crops, which is also a hazardous technology, even as it is unpredictable and irreversible,” said Pankaj Bhushan, Convener of the GM-Free Bihar Movement. “We don’t want genetically modified crops in Bihar, We don’t want Bt Brinjal or Bt Maize in Bihar. Bihar’s agriculture policy is also clear about this, After all it will affect our food and farmers,” he said.

He said Union Minister for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh too had pointed this out in his moratorium decision note, saying that “clearly, Bt technology is not the only route for reducing pesticide use…..The advantage of NPM (non-pesticide management) is that it eliminates chemical pesticide use completely whereas Bt technology only reduces the pesticide spray, albeit substantially”. Civil society groups have time and again provided evidence from within the NARS (national agricultural research system) in addition to evidence from farmers’ fields that scores of safe, affordable and eco-friendly alternatives exist to both pesticides and GM crops for pest management in agriculture, Bhushan said.

He said that the constitution of the Expert Group is a matter of concern for his Coalition for a GM-Free India that is spearheading the campaign across the country in the larger interest of the people. “Despite the huge concern expressed at the prevalence of conflicting interests in our regulatory decision-making during the nation-wide debate last year, it appears that no lessons are being drawn. The new ‘expert group’ of 16 members has at least 5 members associated with GM crop development and it is not clear why they were included in this panel,” Bhushan wondered.

He said that latest scientific evidence on GM crops from world-over is pointing to environmental and health risks indeed being a reality with GMOs. A recent scientific review pointed out that favorable findings on GM crops from scientific papers were usually from studies of GM crop developers themselves while independent studies are still sorely missing. As far as the views of state governments and their opposition to Bt brinjal is concerned, nothing has changed since the time the moratorium was imposed, he added.

~~GM Free Bihar Movement/Tara Foundation, Bihar




Call for a Nation-wide DAY OF ACTION on Aug. 9, 2011 (Quit India Day) &
KISAN SWARAJ WEEK, Aug. 9TH to Aug. 15TH 2011

Have you heard of this agri-business company called Monsanto? Monsanto is an American company, which has become the world’s largest seed company by employing many devious strategies and tactics. Its annual gross profit is around 22,500 crores of rupees - which is more than the GDP of at least 48 countries! You can imagine the power of this corporation. Monsanto is notorious across the world for a variety of misdeeds and crimes – polluting natural resources, killing and maiming humans with its products, bribing officials for approvals, falsifying safety reports to show the most dangerous chemicals like dioxin as safe, colluding with regulators through revolving doors between the company and government, false advertising etc.

What Indian farmers should know is that Monsanto is also a company which has sued and jailed farmers for the “crime” of saving and using seeds that have been purchased by the farmers from the company, to protect its patents. Can you imagine farmers not being allowed the right to save seed from their own crop, when it is farmers who have bred thousands of crop varieties over the centuries?

‘No food shall be grown that we don’t own’ – that is Monsanto’s reported objective. This diabolical ambition comes from realizing that growing food is obviously a perpetual business as long as humankind exists. Monsanto seeks to own that food through patents and IPRs, using hybrids and Genetically Modified seeds, to prevent competition and force farmers return to the company perpetually for seeds. Even on its most friendly turf USA, Monsanto is now facing an anti-trust investigation.

Monsanto’s Misdeeds and Growing Threat in India

A few indications about the dangers of Monsanto and the extent of its control:

· Mahyco-Monsanto used its Bt cotton seed monopoly to set exorbitant prices. The A.P. government had to use the MRTP Commission, Essential Commodities Act and then a special Act to finally push its price from Rs.1800 per packet to Rs.750.

· Monsanto actually sued A.P. and Gujarat state governments that they have no right to control seed prices – with Congress leader Abhishek Singhvi as its lawyer! How can individual farmers protect themselves from its legal machine?

· Monsanto entered into licensing agreements with most seed companies so that out of 225 lakh acres of GM cotton, 210 lakh acres is planted with its Bollgaard. During 2002-2006, Monsanto earned Rs.1600 crores just in the form of royalties.

· Monsanto is on the Board of US-India Knowledge Initiative in Agriculture, under which bio-safety regime for GM crops was sought to be weakened; repeating its US strategy where its lawyers practically wrote the policies on GM seeds and patents.

· Monsanto entered into hushed-up agreements with several states (Rajasthan, Orissa, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, J&K) under which the states spend hundreds of crores of public funds every year to purchase Hybrid Maize seeds from Monsanto and distributing them free of cost to farmers, creating a ready market.

· Monsanto is pushing the sales of its herbicide glyphosate which is known to cause reproductive problems. Approval for its herbicide-tolerant GM crops would skyrocket the use of this hazardous chemical in our fields.

· Recently, gross violations were exposed in its GM maize field trials in Karnataka.

Oppose Corporate Control of our Food & Agriculture

We have all seen corruption and crony capitalism being exposed in various sectors from telecom to Commonwealth games. Similar scams are being unearthed in the way agriculture and food regulations are being manipulated – from the hushed-up PPP contracts with Monsanto to the formation of “expert panels” on GM crop approval with scientists who are being funded by industry projects. In the Seeds Bill, despite strong demands from farmer unions & state governments, and recommendations from Parliamentary Standing Committee, the Union Agri. Minister refused to include control of seed prices or royalties – clearly obeying the seed industry.

Indian agriculture is seen as a prime multi-billion dollar market by multinational and national agri-business corporations. It is outrageous but not surprising that MNCs are included as Board members in the Knowledge Initiative on Agriculture between the Indian and US governments. Those MNCs are Monsanto, Archer-Daniels Midland and Walmart – covering the whole chain from seed to food production and processing to marketing, reflecting the corporate strategy of controlling the entire value chain.

We don’t need to guess where this drive towards corporatization will take us – we only need to look at American agriculture. Small and medium farmers in the US were pushed out decades ago and only 1% of the people in the US are engaged in agriculture. The objective shifted from supporting the interests of farming households to the “Food Industry”. The company lawyers became policy-makers and passed laws prohibiting farmers from saving seeds, and citizens from criticizing the food industry. Big supermarket chains purchase only from large factory farms of thousands of acres; even a 50-acre farmer cannot sell his produce to the supermarket.

“Learning” from the “American model”, the Indian policymakers are already talking about reducing the farming population in India from 60% to 10%. Where will the rest go? What will happen to our rural and urban economies? Meanwhile, large tracts of land are being amassed by a few companies. It is not just the farmers who should worry; as consumers, our access to safe, diverse, nutritious food is at risk.


If we as a nation want to protect our food sovereignty, if we want to retain control on what we grow and what we eat, this is the time for us to act decisively. Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture (ASHA) is calling all like-minded organizations, alliances and individuals to come together in these joint actions:

· Nation-wide Day of Action on Aug. 9th with the slogan “Monsanto Quit India!”

· Kisan Swaraj Week (Aug 9th-15th) demanding secure livelihoods & sustainable agriculture for the farming community, and opposing corporate domination


For more resources: Visit

Nation-wide campaign contacts:

Kavitha Kuruganti: 093930-01550,; Kiran Vissa: 97017-05743,; Rajesh Krishnan:, 098456-50032;

Put out in Public Interest by Alliance for Sustainable & Holistic Agriculture (