NEW DELHI: Over 50 farmers associations from across the country have demanded Union Ministry of Environment and Forests not to allow ministry’s Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) to proceed with February 5 meeting to allow commercialization of genetically modified mustard.
All major farmer unions of India, in a joint statement, have slammed the ministry for allowing the regulatory body for transgenics to decide on the fate of GM mustard. They demanded that the secret meeting of the regulator be cancelled immediately by the minister.
The GEAC is expected to consider GM Mustard commercialization developed by Delhi University’s Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants (CGCMP) headed by Deepak Pental with support from DBT (Dept of Biotechnology) and NDDB (National Dairy Development Board).
“All major mustard growing states in India, including BJP-ruled states, heeding to citizens’ voices and scientific advice, have come out against GM mustard. They have also expressed concern about the secretive processes adopted by the regulators and for not putting out biosafety data in the public domain,” they said.
The group further said that the Supreme Court has issued notices to the Centre’s regulators on a contempt petition and despite all of this, Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar is allowing GEAC to hold its meeting to process the GM mustard application.
“It makes us wonder what and wherefrom is the need and pressure emerging from,” they said.
The group also objected to the secretive manner in which the government is proceeding on this matter, without public scrutiny of data or any public consultations including with farmers’ unions, despite the GMO being created ostensibly for farmers’ benefit.
The farmer unions pointed out that the government is pushing unneeded, unwanted and unsafe GMOs on the farming community, when viable and feasible alternatives that are safe, affordable and farmer-controlled are already available that need to be promoted with farmers for sustainable farm livelihoods.
It was of the view that there are non-transgenic hybrids already available in the market and new agro-ecological approaches like System of Mustard Intensification (SMI) are out-yielding these unsafe solutions significantly but government is not investing in them probably because of collusion with the seed and chemical industry.
Citing implication of Bt cotton, the group said: “This year, lakhs of farmers in Gujarat, Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Karnataka and Telangana suffered due to whitefly and pink bollworm attack on Bt cotton while the seed companies are going scot-free without being made accountable for the losses.”
Leaders of the farmer unions pointed out that after 13 years of Bt cotton in India, the myth around GM crops has been busted fully, while a deadly unaccountable experiment was unleashed on the lives of farmers.