Home > 2017 > Pushpa Bhargava’s Biggest Struggle in Last Years was Against GM (...)

Mainstream, VOL LV No 34 New Delhi August 12, 2017

Pushpa Bhargava’s Biggest Struggle in Last Years was Against GM Crops

Saturday 12 August 2017, by Bharat Dogra

COMMUNICATION

Many thanks to Mainstream (August 5) for prominently publishing the tribute to Pushpa Mittra Bhargava. However the tribute is not quite complete without a mention of the tireless struggle of the great scientist against GM crops. This peaked during his last years just as the need to save India from GM crops increased during this period due to the growingly aggressive interests of big business interests to get an entry for GM food crops in India by hook or by crook. As Prof P.M. Bhargava was the leading scientist of India to oppose GM crops, his views on this issue deserve to be known widely at a time when the controversy is again escalating in India. He also encouraged others in their efforts for this cause. At a personal level, when I sent my books on this subject in Hindi and English to him he responded immediately with appreciation, urging me also to give copies of these books to Members of Parliament.

Writing in the Business Line (November 5, 2015) in an article titled ‘The Case For Banning GM Crops’ Dr P.M. Bhargava observed: “Today there is substantially large and incontrovertible evidence that genetically modified crops are harmful to human and animal health, environment and biodiversity. The commonly used Bt gene, when put into cotton or brinjal plant, leads to a deleterious effect on growth and development of the plant. GM food has been shown to even cause cancer in rodents.”

When ‘peddlers’ of GM crops said that use of GM crops in the USA had been harmless, he reminded them that incidence of gastrointestinal tract disorders and cases of allergy had in fact increased there. He deeply regretted that “in our country, in no case has field trials of GM crops been adequately and appropriately supervised. It has been a history of lack of care and concern in testing for toxicity and other required parameters all through. The case of GM Mustard that the Indian Government is actively promoting at present is no different.”

His clear policy advice on this issue should be considered by the Government of India. He wrote: “If we are committed to good science and to providing our citizens healthy food, we should put a ban on GM mustard as we did on GM brinjal and say ‘no’ to all GM crops, just as the 17 countries of EU have done. This is also what the Parliament’s Standing Committee on Agriculture as well as the Technical Expert Committee, appointed by the Supreme Court, have recommended in principle.”

Earlier in the first week of August 2014, Prof Bhargava had joined hands with four other eminent scientists Dr Minoo Parabia, Dr V.S. Vijayan, Dr Dinesh Abrol and Dr Tushar Chakraborty to send a letter of protest against the approval by the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) of crop field trials of GM crops. This protest letter was sent to the new Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, as well as to Ministers for Science and Technology, Environment and Agriculture. This letter stated: “It is shocking that the GEAC took this decision in their first meeting after your government took charge.”

Further this letter said: “It is unfortunate that the Committee continues to follow the unscientific approach towards environmental release of GMOs, when there is growing scientific evidence for the adverse impact of GMOs on human health and environment which has been repeatedly brought to their notice. ...Equally important are the experiences from across the world on the potential for this technology to facilitate monopolisation of seeds by a select few multinational seed companies.”

Bharat Dogra

New Delhi

ISSN : 0542-1462 / RNI No. : 7064/62