New Delhi: Civil society groups opposing approval to genetically modified (GM) mustard on Wednesday met Union environment minister Anil Madhav Dave and urged him to reject the GM mustard commercialization application.
The group threatened nationwide resistance in case the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government approved it.
A delegation of Sarson Satyagraha, a broad platform of hundreds of organisations representing farmers, scientists, consumers and others that has been on the forefront of resisting GM mustard, met Dave at the end of a march.
The delegation consisted of representatives of farmer unions, consumer groups, retailers’ association, bee-keeping industry, organic farming associations, farmers and consumers. After the meeting, the delegation claimed the minster assured them that he will highlight their concerns at the ‘right platform’.
The delegation alleged GM mustard is a scientific fraud on the nation and challenged the government to an open public debate on the claimed need, benefits and safety of GM mustard.
“If they are confident of their science and integrity of appraisal, they should join such a debate so that citizens know what they are being subjected to,” said the delegation, while asking Dave to reject the application or face stiff resistance.
Yudhvir Singh of the Bhartiya Kisan Union and convenor of Indian Coordination Committee for Farmers’ Movements (ICCFM) criticised the move.
“We hear that the government is preparing its report card to the nation on three years of Modi Sarkaar. Is this GM mustard Modi government’s dangerous gift to the nation, to mark its 3 years in existence? We would like to remind the government about what BJP had promised in its Manifesto in 2014 with regard to GM technology, and that this GM mustard in no way abides by that commitment,” said Singh, who was part of the delegation.
Badrinarayan Chaudhary, who is the national general secretary of the Bhartiya Kisan Sangh, added that the issue of increased oilseed production towards self-reliance cannot be solved by unsafe technologies like GM.
“Farmers already have a choice of hybrids in the market. The advent of several hybrids over the past decade or so did not bring down our oil imports. This GM mustard was not even compared with the best hybrids to begin with, for anyone to make yield increase claims” Chaudhary said.
GM crops have always been a contentious issue in India. GM brinjal was cleared by the GEAC in 2010, but was put on hold by then environment minister Jairam Ramesh following protests from civil society groups. At present, cotton is the only GM crop allowed in India but if government allows commercial production of GM mustard, it would be first such food crop to get an approval.
GM mustard has been developed by the Delhi University-based Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants (CGMCP). Last week, India’s regulator for transgenic products, the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC), under Union environment ministry, recommended approval for GM mustard’s commercial production. The GEAC’s recommendation, however, has to be approved by Union environment minister Anil Madhav Dave. But since GEAC’s approval, several coalitions of farmers, scientists and civil society groups have started voicing their opposition to it.
A parliamentary standing committee headed by Congress leader Renuka Chowdhury on Monday also asked the central government to hold clearance to GM mustard crop as the panel is looking into the issue.