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If govt approves GM mustard, agri women workers in rural may suffer – SC

If govt approves GM mustard, agri women workers in rural may suffer - SC
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If the government approves GM mustard, agricultural women workers in rural areas may suffer, according to the Supreme Court.

For activist Aruna Rodrigues, lawyer Prashant Bhushan said that India has 5,477 kinds of mustard that would be in danger.

The Supreme Court said on Wednesday that it was worried about the situation of thousands of women who work in agriculture in rural areas and usually pull weeds. These women will be hurt if the government allows herbicide-tolerant crops like GM mustard to be grown commercially in India.

‘Women in rural areas are very good at getting rid of weeds. They are part of India’s agricultural workforce. It helps them find work. You know that the reason people stopped being nomads and started building civilizations is that women started farming. Justice B.V. Nagarathna made a statement out loud while hearing arguments against the government’s environmental clearance for genetically modified mustard.’

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Justice Dinesh Maheshwari, who was the head of the bench, agreed that women were an important part of Indian agriculture all over the country, from rice fields to tea plantations.

Justice Nagarathna said, ‘They work in knee-deep water in the fields, bent over the whole day.’

Senior attorney Sanjay Parikh, speaking on behalf of a petitioner, said that widespread use of herbicide-tolerant crops would make farmers more likely to spray chemical weed killers, which would leave large amounts of toxic chemical residue on the crops.

It’s not for India

‘The Technical Expert Committee (TEC) of the Supreme Court had said that these GM crops were not meant for agriculture in India. They might work in the West, where there are lots of big farms, but not here ‘Mr. Parikh argued.

For activist Aruna Rodrigues, lawyer Prashant Bhushan said that India has 5,477 kinds of mustard that would be in danger.

He said that the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee’s (GEAC) regulatory system, which allowed the genetically engineered mustard Dhara Mustard Hybrid-11 (DMH-11) to be released into the environment, was ‘horrendous’ and full of conflicts of interest.

Mr. Bhushan said that DMH 11 was paid for by the Department of Biotechnology, which was also part of the regulatory system. Even though a parliamentary committee and a report from the Supreme Court’s Technical Expert Committee called for a ban on releasing the hybrid mustard variety into the environment, it was given the green light. Also, the biosafety dossier on the GM crop had not been made public by the government.

He said that Pushpa M. Bhargava, who was put on the GEAC by the Supreme Court, had said that commercially growing GM mustard would make it easy for big companies to do business there.

He said that GM mustard would be the first genetically modified food crop that Indian farmers could grow if it were approved for commercial use. He thought back to when the government took away the BT Brinjal because the system for regulating it was too confusing.

‘It’s not a good idea to let hybrid plants grow in open fields and contaminate other plants. It would start a chain reaction that couldn’t be stopped ‘he said.

‘Testing is wrong’ 

Mr. Bhushan said that the tests on the GM crop were ‘completely wrong’ and that there were no labs that could do the bio-safety tests.

‘The TEC had suggested putting a 10-year hold on releasing any GM crops and using that time to improve our regulatory and testing systems. Most European countries have made it illegal to use GMOs (GMOs). If they were let out now, it would be a very bad situation for biosafety ‘The man gave in.

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In an affidavit, the government said that the GEAC’s approval of the Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants (CGMCP) was the result of a thorough review that started in 2010.

India was already getting oil from GM crops, the government said. On Thursday, the Attorney General will say what the government wants to say in response.

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