Future of GM Crops in India on the Table with GM Mustard Decision
Genetically modified mustard is now one step closer to commercial cultivation in India after the country’s central biotech regulator, the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee approved the vegetable for cultivation and recommended that the Environment Ministry do the same.
The decision will be made by the Environment Minister Anil Madhave Dev who has the option of accepting it, rejecting it, or simply waiting for the Supreme Court to make a decision in an already pending application.
GM mustard would be the second food crop which has received clearance if it is allowed to be produced. In 2010, the GEAC cleared the Bt brinjal (eggplant), but the Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh did not accept it. Currently, only Bt cotton is commercially cultivated in India.
Deepak Pental, ex-Vice Chancellor of the Delhi University and a prominent genetic scientist filed an application for a commercial release in 2015. As a result the GEAC set up a sub-committee to examine the safety of the GM mustard and determined that it is safe for human consumption and environment.
That decision has been opposed by anti-GM groups, environmentalists and economic policy thinktank Swadeshi Jagranmanch.
Ashwani Mahajan, the SJM’s national co-covener, told Times of India, “We will write against the GEAC’s move to the Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the environment minister Anil Madhav Dave, requesting them to reject the recommendation of the GEAC.”
The ‘Sarson Satyagraha’, a broad platform of hundreds of NGOs representing farmers, consumers, scientists and others that has been at the forefront of resisting the approval of GM mustard in India’ too condemned the green signal to the herbicide tolerant GM Mustard.
“The GEAC has proven yet again that it is unscientific and uncaring with regard to citizens’ health and environment. They have failed in their very mandate and purpose for which they have been created, to protect citizens from risks of GMOs. Earlier in the case of Bt brinjal too, they behaved irresponsibly and shamelessly unscientifically. In this case, it is a hazardous herbicide tolerant food crop at that, which has direct implications for a large number of Indian farmers, agricultural workers and consumers”, said Kavitha Kuruganti of the Alliance for Sustainable & Holistic Agriculture (ASHA).
She, on behalf of the Sarson Satyagrah, said, “We have shown over the past several months, through rigorous analysis of available material, how this GM mustard dossier was rigged for favourable results, how it is an unneeded GMO, how it will increase chemicals in our food and farms (because it is a herbicide tolerant GMO) and how regulators should have never allowed it to proceed this far. They had ignored many valid questions raised by scientists and others and chose to function behind a shroud of secrecy”.
Yudhvir Singh, national coordinator of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) and member of Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers Movement said “Farmers are here because they don’t want to lose control over the seed. The traditional seeds will disappear from the market when GM Mustard is introduced. After introduction of Bt cotton, about 3,400 traditional varieties of cotton disappeared. They may be in the government’s gene bank but not with farmers anymore,” he said adding that “the farmers’ problem is not production. We don’t need GM technology because farmers can produce enough and more. Their problem is marketing and protection in the market. Because they don’t get a fair price in the market, they are affected. Why isn’t the government addressing that? Why is it focused on GM technology?”
Among national organisations—All India Agricultural Workers Union, All India Kisan Sabha, All India Trade Union Congress among trade unions, Bharatiya Kisan Union, Bharatiya Kisan Sangh, Jai Kisan Andolan, Kisan Ekta, Kisan Maha Panchayat, Kisan Sangharsh Samiti, Right to Food campaign , Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh (RSS) affiliated Swadeshi Jagaran Manch are leading the movement. This apart there are farmers organisations from nearly all states. Farmers groups also have support from political personalities and parties. Earlier, Bihar CM, Nitish Kumar, Rajasthan CM, Vasundhara Raje, Kerala Agriculture minister, VS Sunil Kumar, Delhi water minister, Kapil Mishra, Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) leader, Ambumani Ramadoss, CPI secretary D Raja area among those who have either opposed the introduction of GM Mustard or made public remarks questioning the move.On Tuesday, all the 120 or more organisations under Sarson Satygraha wrote to PM Narendra Modi explaining their concerns about GM Mustard. “The mustard hybrids already in the market obver the past decade did not increase the production and yield in the country or reduce oil imports. The area under mustard cultivation has actually been decreasing because farmers are finding it unremunerative due to market and climatic factors. Ensuring better market price will go a long way in increasing production…” it read.
The question over the GM mustard is an important one not only for farming health and environment, but also as a signal in which direction India is heading in regards to GMOs.
Should India approve the GM mustard it will show that it is seeding its food independence, agriculture, economy and even its national sovereignty to international corporations. Should it oppose the new GMO, it could be sending a signal that India wants clean food and perhaps opening the door to eliminating Bt cotton.
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Brandon Turbeville – article archive here – is an author out of Florence, South Carolina. He is the author of six books, Codex Alimentarius — The End of Health Freedom, 7 Real Conspiracies,Five Sense Solutions and Dispatches From a Dissident, volume 1 and volume 2, The Road to Damascus: The Anglo-American Assault on Syria,and The Difference it Makes: 36 Reasons Why Hillary Clinton Should Never Be President. Turbeville has published over 1,000 articles dealing on a wide variety of subjects including health, economics, government corruption, and civil liberties. Brandon Turbeville’s podcast Truth on The Tracks can be found every Monday night 9 pm EST atUCYTV. He is available for radio and TV interviews. Please contact activistpost (at) gmail.com.