Parliamentary Standing Committee opposes GM food crops
by Vipesh Garg on 01 Sep 2017 4 Comments
The report of the Renuka Chowdhary-led Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science and Technology, Environment and Forests has given a boost to the efforts of myriad environmentalists, scientists, votaries of native seeds, and activists for a GM-free India.


Titled, ‘Genetically Modified Crops And Its Impact On Environment’ the report emphasises the darker side of GM crops and exposes the extent to which institutions such as the Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR), National Agricultural Research System (NARS), state agriculture universities (SAUs), and various ministries and departments dealing with farming, health, environment, biodiversity and biosafety, have been infiltrated by the purveyors of this deadly technology. The conclusions of the 301st Standing Committee are unanimous.


GM crops are known to have grave side effects on the soil and are not safe for human or animal consumption. The developers failed to meet established protocols on bio-safety, regulation and monitoring. Nor did they factor in India’s being the centre of origin of many food crops whose biodiversity would be adversely affected by GM crops; or even the impact of one GM crop across the country’s diverse topography and multiple agro-climatic zones.


When this writer tried to reach the Prime Minister’s Office about the perils posed by GM food crops, via the PMO grievance portal, an Asst. Director General (PP&B) of ICAR, responded by openly advocating GM crops as safe, with a sophisticated mechanism of regulation and monitoring in place.


It would seem that ICAR and NARS currently dance to the tune of bio-tech firms. They also try to delink the failure of Bt cotton and farmer suicides in Maharashtra.


The Committee rightly points out that despite 20 years of GM crops, only six countries account for 90 per cent of the area under GM crops. If the technology was truly benign, its spread would have been universal by now. Other than major producers of GM crops like Argentina and Brazil, the United States, Canada, and Australia lack biodiversity and are not a primary or secondary centre of biodiversity, as per Vavilov’s classification.


The appointments to the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee have been without transparency and accountability, and were further plagued with conflict of interest issues, but their concerns were brushed aside. Exposing this, the Committee exposes the report of the GEAC in approving GM Mustard on grounds of a defective scrutiny of the same. In the light of the above, there should be an audit of GEAC recommendations and the links between its members and the agricultural bio-tech majors.


The Renuka Chaudhary Committee has struck down the attempt to force a ‘conditional release’ of GM mustard without proper checks and balances. This happened in the case of Bt Cotton, with results that are there for all to see. None of the concerned ministries – health, animal husbandry, livestock, fisheries departments and institutions – have done any comprehensive post-release monitoring study about the impact of Bt cotton on animal, human and environmental health.


On the other hand, numerous false studies have been quoted by pseudo-scientists and journalists doing PR of seed companies. The truth is that Bt cotton has been pushing lakhs of farmers into the debt trap. The imperative now is to institute a proper retrieval mechanism to pull Bt cotton seed out of the country’s seed chain.


Too many Indian agricultural scientists and students, when asked about the reasons for promoting GM food crops, do not give scientific, verifiable answers. Instead, they counter question that if countries like America, Canada and Australia can grow and consume GM, why can’t India? This kind of circular reasoning is a dead giveaway that those peddling these poisonous seeds know that GM technology is not backed by real science.


The truth is that these career scientists have been terrorised into conformity by some unseen but very powerful persons who are peddling GM food crops for over a decade, and can make or ruin their careers if they step out of line.


GM is an open invitation to agricultural multinational companies to control the entire agricultural spectrum of the country.


The ball is now in the Centre’s court. 

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