Govt Acknowledges in Parliament that GM Mustard reaches commercialization stage, refuses to give out safety information.
The Ministry of Environment and Forests and Climate change today formally acknowledged in the Parliament the existence of an application form from Centre for the Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants, University of Delhi (CGMCP) commercial approval of Genetically Modified (GM) Mustard called Dhara Mustard Hybrid-11 (DMH-11) reaching Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC), the nodal agency for any environmental release of GM crops, under the ministry. This was in response to a question raised by Dr Dharam Vira Gandhi in the Lok Sabha.
Given that there is a growing debate on GM crops in general and GM Mustard in particular, Dr Gandhi had asked the Minister for Environment, Forests and Climate change on whether there it is true that GM Mustard is being planned to be released for commercial cultivation.
Interestingly the Ministry did not respond to his demand for giving out the results of the Biosafety studies that has supposedly been done on the GM Mustard. “It is unfortunate that the Ministry hides such important information even on the floor of the Parliament. I had raised this issue as several efforts by citizens to get this information through RTI queries have been stonewalled by the regulator, GEAC” said Dr Gandhi, who is a Lok Sabha M.P from Patiala, Punjab. He further stated that “the secrecy around an issue that is going to impact the environment, citizen’s health, farming as well as country’s wellbeing itself is a dangerous situation.”
Brassica (rapeseed/mustard) has slowly taken over soyabean and groundnut as the most important edible oilseed crop in India. Important Mustard growing states include Punjab, Haryana, and Rajasthan. The GM Mustard under question has become a controversy with farmer unions, scientists and civil society opposing any move on its approval for commercial cultivation. They had called it an unneeded, unwanted and unsafe crop. It has also been opposed by state governments of Haryana, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Punjab which are among the largest Mustard producing states in the country.
The debate around GM Mustard is happening at a time when there is widespread failure of Bt cotton, the only GM crop approved for commercial cultivation in India, in Punjab this year with the 2/3rd of the cotton crop being lost. The loss has been estimated at around 4200 crores and had forced an unprecedented number of farmers to even commit suicide.
A parliamentary standing committee on Agriculture as well as the majority (5 out of 6) members of the Supreme court appointed Technical Expert Committee (TEC) had strongly recommended against any open releases of GM crops until the entire regulatory system is revamped. A similar recommendation was also given by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture, comprising of 32 M.Ps from across party lines including 7 from Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in their report submitted in the Parliament on August, 2012.
It is unacceptable that Govt of India is not ready to accept the reality on ground that GM crops are a total failure and poses a threat to farm livelihoods. It is also going defying the Parliamentary recommendations as well as the voice of scientists and public urging a precautionary approach with regard to GM crops. Any release of GM crops into the environment is thus anti farmer, anti people and anti national” concluded Dr Gandhi. He said he will raise this issue inside and outside the Parliament until the govt listens to its people.
GM mustard uses Genetic Use Restriction Technology which is barred under Sec. 29(3) of Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Act, 2001. However, the real intention is to facilitate monopolisation of seeds by few multinational giant seed companies like Monsento, Syngenta and Dow. Moreover, the use of GM mustard will lead to accumulation of pesticides, nitrates and heavy metals in human bodies which can lead to number of chronic and incurable diseases including cancer and will further reduce the reproductive health of both men and women in Punjab. It also contaminates other varieties of mustard given that India is a Centre of Diversity for mustard.
Not only that, GM Mustard will also impact honey production and bee population which is a secondary source of income for farmers/agricultural labourers in Punjab. The Supreme Court and Central Information Commission (CIC) have instructed the regulators to put out all the bio-safety information on GMO for public scrutiny which have not been followed by present regime.
“Seeds are sacred and not commodities, we will save “SARSON” in our pots.”
By Dr Dharam Vira Gandhi