New Delhi: Stating that genetically modified (GM) mustard crop, which is waiting for approval for commercial cultivation from India’s environment ministry , could harm farmers of the country, a group of scientists on Thursday wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi requesting him to stop the release of GM mustard.
The group that wrote to the prime minister on Thursday includes Dr Sharad Nimbalkar, former vice-chancellor of Panjabrao Agriculture University, Akola, in Maharashtra.
In their letter, the scientists said they are well informed that the 21st century is the era of science and technology and that technologies emerging through use of science cannot be neglected. “However, it is very painful to see a few learned scientists in India, positioned in higher hierarchies in government administration, try to introduce technology harmful to Indian farmers and to our assets of biodiversity...," said the letter, which was reviewed by Mint.
“Moreover, they have a hidden agenda to exhaust indigenous seeds of crops... with those under patent regimes of foreign multinationals. There is sufficient ground to doubt their integrity towards Indian farmers, who are being made more dependent on monopolised seeds under IPR regimes of foreign multinational companies," they added.
India’s regulator for GM products—the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC)—on 11 May recommended approval for commercial production of GM mustard, developed by the Delhi University-based Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants.
The application is currently awaiting a final nod from Union environment minister Harsh Vardhan. Faced with opposition from civil society groups, farmer groups, consumer bodies and others, the ministry has planned a series of meetings with opinion makers and stakeholders before he takes a final decision.
At present, cotton is the only GM crop allowed in India and if the environment ministry grants permission, GM mustard will become first GM food crop in India. In 2010, GEAC had cleared GM brinjal but the ministry did not clear it in the wake of protests from civil society groups.
The scientists warned that the technology used in preparing GM mustard could lead to indiscriminate use of herbicides, endangering indigenous varieties of mustard.
Alleging a nexus between promoters of GM mustard and GEAC, the scientists asked the prime minister to urgently intervene.
GM mustard is also facing resistance from groups like the Swadeshi Jagran Manch, an affiliate of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), which is the ideological parent of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.