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Mainstream, VOL LIV No 47 New Delhi November 12, 2016

GM Crops — Difficult Questions for the Modi Government

Wednesday 16 November 2016, by Bharat Dogra

The protest organised by the satyagraha against GM Mustard at Jantar Mantar on October 25 was much more than an ordinary dharna. On the one hand representatives of the Opposition parties like the Congress, CPI-M, CPI and AAP lashed out at the support extended by the Modi Government to GM crops whose serious hazards are well-established. On the other hand there were also representatives of organisations like the Swadeshi Jagaran Manch (SJM) which are a part of the Sangh Parivar and yet have firmly opposed the pro-GM crop stand of the BJP-led government and more particularly its efforts to introduce the GM Mustard crop.

In this context the presentation of Ashwani Mahajan, the national convenor of the SJM, was specialy important. He said that the SJM has remained firm in its opposition to GM crops. The SJM has obviously based its opposition on the basis of scientific opinion accessed by it. This has been summarised in a letter sent to the Prime Minister.

In this letter the SJM has said: “Now that it is established that Prof Pental’s GM Mustard is neither Swadeshi, nor high yielding as compared to indigenous hybrids nor even good for our health, environment and bio-diversity, the undue hurry being demonstrated by the authorities is beyond comprehension and raises serious questions. It is the second time that such a situation has come, where a GM food crop is being considered for approval for commercial production. Earlier it was during the UPA Government that such a situation was confronted with in the case of Bt. Brinjal. It is bound to raise political stakes also as this decision of your government would be compared with the procedure adopted by previous regime when the then Minister of Environment, Jairam Ramesh, allowed public hearing and permitted scrutiny of claims by making the data public and allowed four months time to file objections to the stakeholders. That eventually led to a moratorium on Bt. Brinjal, as the scientific community was able to prove that introduction of Bt. Brinjal would be injurious to human health, bio-diversity and agriculture at large. May we remind you that at that point of time the then government, that was at the brink of approving commercial production of Bt. Brinjal, decided in favour of making the whole scientific data public, which ultimately helped the scientific scrutiny of same and proved beyond doubt its adverse effects?

“The Swadeshi Jagaran Manch has been constrained to write to you, because 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 the the 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 practising this hash bash, the scientific community has been denied the time to study and scrutinise the scientific data to understand the effects of GM mustard on health, environment and bio-diversity. In this regard we are again constrained to write that no long term or feeding tests have been conducted to ascertain the effect of GM mustard on human and animal health.”

These questions raised by SJM prompted many speakers at the dharna to ask why is it that the Modi Government is not listening even to organisations like the SJM which provided the moral strength to bring the BJP to power.

Bharat Dogra is a free-lance journalist who has been involved with several social initiatives and movements.

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