News Column


July 31, 2014

GM DEBATE Open trials of GM crops remain a moot point even as NDA govt takes a ' U- turn'

THE SWADESHI Jagran Manch ( SJM), the economic arm of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh ( RSS) leading the protest against the proposed field trials of genetically modified ( GM) crops, urged on Thursday that politics should not be allowed to colour the debate on the issue.

" This is beyond the RSS. Our objection to the field trials of GM crops is for the society.

There should not be any politics on the issue," said Ashwini Mahajan, co- convener of the SJM. Mahajan was referring to speculation that the SJM and another farmer body affiliated to the RSS had convinced the NDA government to put in abeyance the proposed trial of 13 GM crops. After meeting Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar on Tuesday, representatives of the SJM and Bhartiya Kisan Sangh had claimed that trials cleared by India's apex biotech regulator had been put on hold by the NDA government.

Mahajan claimed that modern biotechnology, the technique through which the genetic make- up of crops is altered to yield certain desired traits, " harms the soil, human health and environment". " GM seeds will enslave farmers to powerful multinational seed corporations," Mahajan said.

Pointing out the " reluctance" of subsequent governments on large- scale use of GM seeds, Mahajan added, " Since they were introduced in 2002, only one variety of such seeds, that is GM cotton, has been given the goahead for commercial cultivation in India." " In 2010, the central government stopped the commercialisation of Bt brinjal because of a lack of consensus among scientists and opposition from brinjal- growing states. In 2013, a Supreme Court- appointed panel suggested moratorium on GM field trials," he said.

Mahajan contended that it was not advisable to allow commercial cultivation or trials of GM crops without proper scientific evaluation of their " probable longterm impact on human health and soil". He further claimed that the technology, which involves introducing a foreign gene into a seed is dangerous because " once introduced, it is irreversible". " In other words, once you have a GM crop, you cannot reverse the process if you find that it is causing harm," Mahajan said.

The bone of contention is the promise made by the BJP in its election manifesto that GM foods will not be allowed without full scientific evaluation of long- term effects on soil, production and biological impact on consumers.

Mahajan said there is no scientific study to prove that GM technology does increase productivity as is claimed by promoters of the technology. He claimed the environmental costs might outweigh any benefits the introduction of such a technology may bring.

The farmer leader said even the Supreme Court- appointed Technical Expert Committee had in its final report highlighted the inherent risks associated with open release of GM crops and the absolute failure of the regulatory mechanism in India, and strongly recommended against any open release of such crops and field trials until a robust regulatory mechanism is put in place.

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Source: Mail Today (India)

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