The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) is inundated with hundreds of faxes and emails requesting Narendra Modi to step in and stop a pending approval to the controversial genetically modified (GM) Mustard. The Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) under the Ministry of Environment had set October 5, 2016, as the last day to receive public feedback on this controversial crop. Only a month’s time was allocated for the public feedback.
RSS-backed Swadeshi Jagran Manch on Tuesday called for the intervention of the PM in the matter on the ground that the Ministry of Environment and Forests is displaying undue haste in giving permission to GM Mustard, which promises an increased yield based on ‘manipulated data’.
Several other social activists and farmer organisations have written to the government against the commercial release of GM Mustard developed by Delhi University’s former Vice-Chancellor Deepak Pental-led Centre for Genetic Manipulation and Crop Plants (CGMCP).
Rajesh Krishnan, heading the Coalition for a GM Free India, said, “The PMO has received thousands of emails from citizens, who are demanding that the biosafety procedures used to develop GM Mustard by the Centre for Genetic Manipulation in Crop Plants of the Delhi University be made public. Without access to the biosafety data and adequate time for a well-analysed and considered feedback, we refuse to accept this farcical process.”
Krishnan further pointed out, “We accuse them of malafide intent since, despite our pointing out glaring errors in their safety assessment, they have refused to correct themselves. Further, the GEAC is ridden with conflict of interest since most of its members have association with larger multinational companies promoting GM crops.”
On Gandhi Jayanti, thousands of citizens came out on the streets in more than hundred locations across 18 states of India, as part of the Sarson Satyagraha Campaign. The protesters term this GM crop, with three bacterial genes, two of which are for pollination control and a third one for providing herbicide tolerance to the plant was ‘unwanted, unneeded and unsafe’.
“It is alarming that farmers’ livelihood security, food safety, citizens’ health and sustainability of our environment are not the priority of the government. It is also sad that scientific integrity is being buried in an unexplained push for a risky technology,” said Kavitha Kuruganti, convenor of the Coalition for a GM-Free India.
“The fact that the GEAC refused to put in the public domain the entire biosafety studies and ran a sham of a public consultation process in a haste shows that they have something to hide on this unwanted, unneeded, and unsafe GM crop,” Kuruganti added.
“Truth is being shielded and the government is being misguided about the safety, yield, and IPR (due to patented genes). We take this opportunity to request you to intervene in the matter and ensure that no permission is given to GM mustard,” said Ashwani Mahajan, national co-convenor of Swadeshi Jagran Manch.
The Manch alleged that vested interest groups and people at high levels are trying to project their falsehoods due to the menace of conflict of interest, a phenomenon which should be avoided for regulatory mechanism also with regard to the regulation of GM crops, as suggested by Technical Expert Committee of Supreme Court.
“By hurrying up the process of approval for GM mustard, all decency, transparency, scientific rigour, and previous practices have been kept at bay, for no reason. Needless to mention that by practicing this hash bash, the scientific community has been denied to study and scrutinize the scientific data to understand the effects of GM Mustard on health, environment, and biodiversity,” the Manch letter said.
Emphasising that no long term or feeding tests have been conducted to ascertain the effect of GM Mustard on human and animal health, the organisation said GM crops were injurious to honey bees, as has been proved the world over.
The letter also challenged the claims that GM Mustard is Swadeshi, saying in 2002, Proagro Seed Company (Bayer subsidiary) had applied for commercial approval for a similar construct that Pental and his team are now promoting as HT Mustard DMH 11.