Farmer leaders seek PM’s intervention to withdraw Govt approval of GM-Mustard
Even as the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case concerning the ‘environmental release’ of the country’s first genetically modified (GM) food crop, several farmer leaders have asked the Prime Minister to intervene in order to halt field trials of the GM-Mustard variety DMH-11 and to withdraw government approval.
‘We strongly oppose this and encourage you to consider these arguments, to halt and refuse authorisation of the GM Mustard and all other GM field trials.’ According to a joint letter signed by Yudhvir Singh and Rakesh Tikait of Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU), Atul Kumar Anjan of All India Kisan Sabha, Rampal Jat of Kissan Mahapanchayat, and Jogender Singh Ugrahan of BKU (Ekta), among others, ‘you avoid the irreparable damage that GMOs will cause to our diversity, soil, food, and the environment.’
According to these leaders, India is practically self-sufficient in terms of mustard supply-demand because edible oil consumption in the country varies by location.
Last month, the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) of the Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change approved DMH-11’s ‘environmental release,’ opening the way for its commercial distribution in due course. The Supreme Court, however, granted a case brought by Gene Campaign and Aruna Rodrigues disputing the nod and ordered the government to provide an affidavit, which it has since done.
The Centre has informed the Supreme Court that its licence for the ‘environmental release’ of genetically modified (GM) mustard is subject to ‘stringent restrictions and conditions to protect the country’s environmental safeguards.’ The administration has dismissed concerns that the genetic variation will harm honey bees.
In a detailed response to the writs, the Centre stated that seed production and testing will take three seasons unless otherwise approved by the ICAR (Indian Council of Agricultural Research) before the (GM mustard) seeds are made available to farmers.
Kavitha Kuruganti of the Coalition for a GM-Free India told the media on Monday that ‘we can cite at least five areas where the government has given erroneous material before the Supreme Court (through the affidavit).’ The case is expected to be heard by the Supreme Court on Tuesday.
She stated that the Court’s Technical Expert Committee (TEC) was a split house, despite the fact that the panel’s major consensus recommendation was herbicide-tolerantlerant crops.
She believes that whether a crop is herbicide-tolerant or not should be determined by what genes are inserted and what new qualities the plant has acquired, rather than by how the applicant portrays the plant. ‘Because both the paternal lines of DMH-11, the HT hybrid, also carry the bar gene, they will only generate HT children,’ she stated.