NEW DELHI: The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the BJP’s ideological patron, has won the GM crop war with the government’s premier policy think-tank Niti Aayog. In the first authoritative indication, the planning body’s draft on the three-year action plan, a copy of which is with The Sunday Standard, admits that “other alternatives (to GM crops) should be explored”.
“NITI Aayog officials had reached out to senior RSS functionaries for an open debate on the issue. But all efforts proved to be futile,” said a senior member. The RSS has been opposed to the introduction of GM crops for many years.
As the NITI Aayog began to champion GM crops to meet the food needs of India’s growing population, the RSS dug in its heels, emerging as the principal stumbling block.
RSS General Secretary Bhaiyaji Joshi had stated that the strong counter-arguments to the scientific community’s espousal of the GM crops could not be brushed aside.
The NITI Aayog had furnished scientific approval in its defence. “Public policy on agriculture research and development is facing a serious dilemma.
The scientific community by and large favours the development and use of transgenic and genetically modified (GM) crops to address future agri-food demands and other challenges,” the NITI Aayog has written in the action plan circulated to all the state governments during the Governing Council meeting presided over by the Prime Minister on April 16.
The Gujarat government had rejected the NITI Aayog’s requests for GM crop trials soon after the National Democratic Alliance came to power in 2014.
The NITI Aayog further writes, “However, there is a strong public sensitivity towards the health and environment safety aspects of these technologies in India and in most of other countries, which cannot be ignored.” In India, only GM cotton is cultivated. Activists have been raising seed monopoly by multinational companies as an issue, along with pest-affected crops leading to losses for farmers.