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Biotech Regulatory Bill divides scientists
HYDERABAD: The opposition to the Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India Bill, which is likely to be introduced in the next se..
HYDERABAD: The opposition to the Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India Bill, which is likely to be introduced in the next session of Parliament, is growing not only from nongovernmental organisations but also from scientists.
The department of biotechnology has been entrusted with the responsibility of setting up a National Biotechnology Regulatory Authority as an independedent, autonomous and professionallyled body to provide singlewindow mechanism for biosafety clearance of geneticallymodified products and processes. For setting up NBRA, an Act is needed. Hence the draft bill.
"The bill seems to have been drafted by someone who has no knowledge of biotechnology as a science," says PM Bhargava, the Supreme Court nominee to the apex body of Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) under the ministry of environment and forests constituted for approval of geneticallymodified organisms (GMOs).
As a member, he had suggested a list of mandatory tests and trials any GMO should be put through before being marketed commercially. "The tests were approved by an independent group of scientists across the world. Three years on, no decision has been taken on introducing this check on any of the transgenic products to be introduced in the country," says Bhargava, founder of the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) here.
There is also a lack of national laboratory facility to verify the results of claims made by the companies. "There was a proposal to set up an independent national lab facility which could verify and test the products being marketed by companies but even that has not been acted upon," he points out.
Further, civil society groups have been questioning the transparency of separating the functions of regulator and vendor from the bill.
The department of science and technology, in this case, is a promoter of GMOs and placing autonomous regulatory authority under this department is seen as a means of controlling the decisionmaking process.
"It is as though a student who has done his assignment is sitting down to check it on his own," says Kavitha Kuruganti, convener of Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture (ASHA).
However, scientists working on developing transgenetics have a different take on the bill. They think that readytomarket products have been delayed due to the absence of a strong legislation.
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