- Prakash JavadekarUnion Minister for Environment and Forests and climate change
Stop Field trials of GM crops in India
The BJP Government promised that they will safeguard our food. But a few weeks ago, they just did something exactly opposite.
They approved numerous field trials of several GM crops. Dangerous GM varieties of rice, wheat and many vegetables are slowly being pushed onto all our plates.
I am extremely concerned because Genetically modified food is dangerous. Several studies show that GM food is not safe for us. Yet, our Government has given permission to this to be tested.
As a father, I am concerned that dangerous GM food might soon find its way to not just mine but my daugther’s plate as well. That’s why I started a petition on Change.org asking the Environment Minster Prakash Javedekar to stop the field trials immediately.
Many people have opposed GM food including experts and even the expert committee set up by the Supreme Court itself. The Parliamentary Committee on Science & Technology have also opposed these field trials.
Even the Government’s own report shows how field trials of GM food crops are known to contaminate our regular seeds.
This is a fight for the food we eat everyday. Sign my petition and forward this campaign to your friends.
Together we can protect our food by ensuring no GM food field trials are held on our soil. Sign my petition.
- Union Minister for Environment and Forests and climate change
Sub: Stop Field trials of GM crops in India
Greetings! The recent go-ahead for GMO open air field trials, given by the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) is a clear message, with the blessings of the Government of India even if you want to say that it is not GoI’s decision, but only a Committee’s recommendations. Recommendations are the first step in an approval process, as we are well aware.
There are several reasons why this go-ahead, within 100 days of the BJP government, is a matter of concern to us.
There is a Supreme Court case going on, where the Court is on the verge of giving its verdict, based on the recommendations provided by a Technical Expert Committee (TEC) that the Court set up. This TEC majority report has asked for open-air trials to be stopped. In fact, this report points to no place at all for entertaining applications related to Bt food crops, herbicide tolerant GM crops and crops for which we are the Cente of Origin/Diversity. One of your predecessors, Ms Jayanti Natarajan had stopped GEAC’s approval processes on these grounds, whereas you seem to want to follow the controversial footsteps of Mr Veerappa Moily, who was criticized by prominent BJP leaders when he gave a go-ahead to field trial approvals.
Earlier, a Ministry of Agriculture’s Committee (‘Sopory Committee’) concluded that the first and only public sector GM crop commercially released in India, Bt Bikaneri narma, was contamianted by the transgene from Monsanto's Bt cotton and the contamination occurred most probably in a University (outcrossing or admixture, deliberate or accidental are the terms that the Committee uses). If this could happen with one GMO, no one has come forward to explain to the nation why it will not happen with other GMOs.
Before this was the unanimous Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture’s report on GM food crops, with many NDA members in it, which also called for stopping of field trials ‘under any garb’.
More important is the fact that BJP had made a promise to the citizens of India in its election manifesto – incidentally, the promise around long term comprehensive scientific evaluation of GMO safety and other risks is exactly the crux of the SC case! This move of FT approvals is a clear and intentional breaking of a promise.
Further, we have had the Agriculture Minister express his views on the very first day of assuming charge. He said that GMOs should be discussed only if they are absolutely critical. A Task Force on Agricultural Biotechnology made a similar main recommendation in 2004, led by Dr M S Swaminathan, where transgenics were recommended as an option only where other alternatives are not available or feasible. This report was accepted by Government of India.
Several state governments have been repeatedly communicating their disinclination to conducting any open air trials in their respective states. However, GEAC goes ahead to consider applications for trials in these states also, and gives clearances. This is just an attempt at sneaking in GMOs.
Apart from the above and importantly, the fact that transgenics in our food, farming and environment are undesirable and unwanted stems from the fact that this is a living technology, that is imprecise, unstable, irreversible and uncontrollable.
Field trials involve a deliberate open-air release of GMOs which are untested and are new organisms in Nature. In India, no biosafety clearance happens before such field trials, and biosafety testing is done parallelly with open air releases. This poses risks due to the inherent nature of the technology – of spreading in uncontrollable ways.
There are numerous examples of contamination resulting from field trials (even the MoA’s own Sopory Committee report points to this). In fact, such contamination has also led to export consignment rejections elsewhere, and this therefore has trade security implications also. United Nations’ FAO has recently put out a new report pointing out to steady increase in incidents of low levels of GM crops in traded food and feed, including from field trials, based on a first-of-its-kind survey on these incidents.
To compound this challenge that the technology itself presents is the pathetic and unaccountable regulation of GM field trials in the country. We have numerous instances documented of egregious and brazen violations of biosafety norms laid down substantiated by RTI replies . Nothing has changed as far as oversight, monitoring, scientific evaluation and other requisite regulation of GMOs is concerned in this country.
Sir, it is in this context that we believe that stoppage of all open air field trials of GMOs in this country is the only scientific and logical thing to do.
Anything otherwise is a matter of concern because it shows disregard of the government towards a precautionary approach, towards scientific evidence, towards democratic voices and towards its own promises to citizens of this country. It also indicates an expedient volte-face of BJP since in the past, it has been a party that opposed GMOs, for all the right reasons, in numerous ways and strived to keep India GMO-free.
Kindly assure us that GEAC’s “recommendations” will not result in open air deliberate releases of GMOs in the garb of field trials, that you will annul the go-ahead given by GEAC and stop GEAC from any further approvals of field trials.
copy to : Shri Narendra Modi,
Govt of India.
Rajesh Krishnan started this petition with a single signature, and now has 28,191 supporters. Start a petition today to change something you care about.