Scientists, activists unhappy with ICAR’s ‘gag’ order on GM mustard
A group of scientists and environmentalists have criticized an ‘advisory’ from the government to working scientists and retired employees of public sector organizations telling them not to speak out against genetically modified (GM) mustard.
In different letters to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar, and Director General of ICAR Himanshu Pathak, they said that a recent government statement issuing ‘gag’ orders would go against the right to speak out.
‘It is an attempt to stop scientists in the public sector from speaking up by using administrative rules. ‘They have even included people who have left the military,’ they said. ‘We are asking the Department of Agriculture Research and Education (DARE) to pull the instructions right away. ‘It is the same as giving scientists a gag order because they can’t do science in the way it was meant to be done and can’t present evidence-based analysis,’ the letter said. V. S. Vijayan, who is the Honorary Chairman of the Salim Ali Foundation in Thrissur, S. E. Pawar, who used to work at BARC, and Gunathilagaraj Kandasamy all signed the letter (Entomology).
In the controversial letter, which was seen by businessline, the ICAR told scientists who work for the government that any ‘unauthorized opinion’ about the approval of GM mustard hybrid would lead to action.
Himanshu Pathak, who is also the secretary of DARE, said that people who don’t like GM technology are spreading a number of myths about the GM mustard hybrid. ‘All the national agencies and public research systems are officially involved in figuring out if the product is safe for people, animals, and the environment,’ he said.
Pathak said that the recent decision by GEAC to let genetically modified (GM) mustard DMH-11 and its parent lines go out into the environment had caught the attention of the press and the general public.
He defended GM technology and said that it was important to increase yields in several crops. He said that this issue has gotten a lot of attention from the public.
‘We are making this statement in the public interest to make it clear that any opinion or article published on the subject by someone who is not authorized or a former employee of ICAR that is different from the stated documentation and decisions made by the regulatory authorities are subject to administrative procedures,’ he said.