Voices of dissent against GM mustard increase

A day after the Delhi government opposed Centre's possible assent to commercial planting of GM mustard, the Communist Party of India (CPI) and some farmer associations joined the debate, demanding the National Democratic Alliance government not give its nod and instead make bio-safety test results public.

Business Standard had earlier reported that the government planned to secretively assess the release of the herbicide-tolerant variety of mustard developed by Delhi University (Click here to read the story). The meeting agenda, deliberations and bio-safety data have not been placed in public domain till date.

On February 2, the Supreme Court asked the Attorney-General to reply to a contempt notice alleging that the government was going ahead with the clearance to GM mustard in violation of court orders that had asked for public disclosure of bio-safety data on the crop that emerged from previous field trials. The petition had also alleged that, in the process of trials and clearances, the government had not ensured zero-contamination from GM mustard fields as required by the courts.

Many green groups have consistently opposed the introduction of GM crops, citing lack of information in the public domain, conflict of interest of some members on the clearance committee and allegedly unsafe technology being introduced in India.

The farmers’ unions had collectively said: “The government is pushing unneeded, unwanted and unsafe GMOs on the farming community.” They noted that the state governments of all major mustard-growing states in India, including Bharatiya Janata Party-ruled states, had opposed GM mustard earlier.  They also expressed concern over the secretive processes adopted by the regulators and not releasing bio-safety data in the public domain.

While Bihar chief minister had earlier written to the central government opposing the move, D Raja, Member of Parliament for the CPI, in a letter - to the environment minister on February 3 - demanded that the bio-safety data be made public. He noted there were many other non-GM hybrids of mustard which provided greater yield but it was not clear why the government was promoting a technology that had traits of terminator seeds of herbicide-tolerant variety which many governments and expert committees had opposed.

Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh ideologue K N Govindacharya, along with Abhishek Joshi, had also written to Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar opposing the introduction of GM mustard. They said they took strong objection against, and deep concerns with regard to, the secretive and hurried processing of GM mustard "environmental release" application and possible approval of GM mustard, adding the NDA government had repeatedly asserted "transparency & accountability" as major "pivots" of its governance policy and these were seen to be grossly violated in letter and spirit.

Earlier the Delhi government had said Delhi University had conducted the trials in the Capital without the mandatory approval of the state government. It said it was opposed to the introduction of GM mustard in Delhi as committed in its manifesto but the government was on the verge of illegally giving it clearance, without consulting the states.

Business Standard is now on Telegram.
For insightful reports and views on business, markets, politics and other issues, subscribe to our official Telegram channel