Activists cry foul over GM mustard

Activists accuse government of supporting seed and chemical makers at the expense of farmers and other citizens despite risks


The activists plan to approach environment minister Prakash Javadekar again to voice their concerns. Photo: Hindustan Times
The activists plan to approach environment minister Prakash Javadekar again to voice their concerns. Photo: Hindustan Times

New Delhi: Calling genetically modified (GM) mustard a “scientific fraud”, a group of activists on Monday accused the Union environment ministry’s Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) of being opaque, unscientific and non-participatory.

They also accused the government of supporting interests of seed and chemical makers at the expense of farmers and other citizens despite risks.

GEAC, India’s regulator for genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and transgenic products, had invited a seven-member team from the Coalition for a GM-Free India to its meeting on Monday to make presentations on the concerns related to transgenic mustard hybrid DMH-11 of Delhi University.

According to Kavitha Kuruganti of the coalition, an alliance of 400 groups, GEAC gave its experts only 30 minutes for a presentation though they had asked for two hours. The coalition said this is the fourth time GEAC has invited civil society members “without any intention or commitment” to listen to their analysis or concerns.

The group finally decided to not give a presentation and walked out of the meeting. The group now plans to approach environment minister Prakash Javadekar again to voice its concerns.

An environment ministry spokesperson declined to comment.

If GEAC allows GM mustard, it will become India’s first GM food crop. Currently, only GM cotton is allowed in India.

In April, the Central Information Commission had pulled up the environment ministry for lack of transparency on GM crop trials and directed the ministry to make public all information, including bio-safety data of GM mustard crop.

The activists said seed makers were rigging data to show higher yield.

Analysis so far has showed that farmers will not benefit, they said.

According to Rampal Jat of Kisan Mahapanchayat, higher production is possible through other changes.

“We will see if the environment minister will keep his promise that he made earlier of listening to all analysis, concerns and objections from our side,” he said.

Jat also accused GEAC of ignoring the position of farmers.

“GM crops have to be ultimately used by farmers. But there is no place for them in the whole discussion,” he added.

Yudhvir Singh, convenor of Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers’ Movements (ICCFM), and a farmer leader of Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU), too was critical.

“There is a clear environment that the government and its regulators have built, of wanting to support the interests of seed and chemical manufacturers, at the expense of farmers and other citizens, despite numerous risks and evidence of fraudulent science. The regulators are behaving as though they have no accountability to citizens and that they are complete repositories of all knowledge themselves, despite repeated evidence of their unscientific attitude and irresponsible discharge of duty”, Singh said.

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