Unwholesome regulations on food

Experts are, therefore, advising caution on importing US regulations wholesale. American systems warrant a closer look not merely because the FDA is set to open an open office in this country but because an agricultural partnership launched during the Bush regime is seeking to replicate American policies here through different forums. One such is the Indo-US Knowledge Initiative on Agriculture (KIA), which has just completed its first three-year phase. Kavitha Kuruganti, convener of the Coalition for a GM-Free India, finds that the KIA is focused not so much on technology transfer as on changes in India’s regulatory regime With US multinationals such as Monsanto and Archer Daniels Midland Co on the KIA board, it is only to be expected that the companies will “drive as many changes as possible to suit their business interests”, she claims.

There is a strong body of opinion which says the KIA should be put under parliamentary scrutiny so that a proper assessment can be made of its contribution to Indian agriculture, specially to the small farmer. But this is an issue that could easily turn into an ideological debate and deflect attention from the key concerns on regulation.

One worrying issue is whether revolving doors are opening up here, too. Making a presentation at a recent Delhi briefing of the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) along with its founder Clive James, was C D Mayee, one of India’s top agriculture scientists. Mayee is a director of the ISAAA, which describes itself as a not-for-profit organisation that “delivers the benefits of agricultural biotechnology to resource-poor farmers in developing countries.” However, among the 21 donors to ISAAA are a clutch of biotech seed companies which are seeking to expand their markets. These include Monsanto and Indian companies which come to the GEAC for approvals. Mayee is also co-chair of the regulatory body. Not a few believe there is a patent conflict of interest here. (via Latha Jishnu: Unwholesome regulations on food).

Red flag

Latha Jishnu makes some very valid points – and flags issues that should concern all of us. A number of these issues will fly low, below the radar – and a combination of an outdated bureaucracy plus Big Business lobbying will see most of the agenda finally seeing the light of day!

Media, commentators, academia, analysts are busy with political parties and personalities. The shaping of the national agenda, is ignored – and left to chance and random outcomes.

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