Orissa's biotech policy 2005

Biodiversity, farmers' interests at stake

By Ranjan Panda
Published: Friday 30 September 2005

the Orissa government recently prepared a draft of its Biotechnology Policy 2005. A first glance at the policy, scripted with technical assistance from the New Delhi-based Biotech Consortium India Limited, speaks of bringing home the most advantageous "biotechnology research and development" to solve almost all the problems of this poorest state of India. But experts fear its hidden agenda is to promote the profits of industries, even at the cost of biodiversity and farmers' interests.

The policy talks of harnessing natural resources in the state's unique bio-reserves to achieve "integration of the existing achievements in research and industry and strengthening and expanding the existing base to maximise the benefits for the development of the state". Experts say the plea of development is merely being used to promote industries. Biswajit Mohanty of environmental organisation Wildlife Society of Orissa alleges that so far, only scientists and industries that will benefit from the policy have been consulted.

That such a policy is being drafted was first revealed during a national seminar in June 2005, organised by the Department of Science and Technology (dst). Only government officials, scientists and academicians participated in the seminar. In July 2005, another meeting was organised only for the investors. S K Mishra, under secretary, dst, confirms that the policy has not been discussed anywhere with the public or civil society organisations.

"Public-private partnership to develop the state...is not a problem, but clauses to give undue advantage to industries at the cost of biodiversity and farmers' interests are...," says Ashok Pradhan of Sambalpur Zilla Krushak Sangathan, a farmers' group. It is also alleged that the policy has been formulated at the behest of multinational food companies and may compromise the state's food security. Environmentalists are also worried about a clause on developing "transgenic crops standards". This, they say, will make inroads for seed giants like Monsanto and spell doom for farmers and biodiversity.

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