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  Prakash Javadekar: No consent for GM mustard cultivation yet

Prakash Javadekar: No consent for GM mustard cultivation yet

Published : Feb 6, 2016, 4:38 am IST
Updated : Feb 6, 2016, 4:38 am IST

A delegation of the Sarson Satyagraha, a coalition opposing GM mustard, hands over a petition urging the Centre not to allow commercial cultivation of genetically-modified mustard to Union minister for environment and forests Prakash Javadekar in New Delhi on Friday.

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A delegation of the Sarson Satyagraha, a coalition opposing GM mustard, hands over a petition urging the Centre not to allow commercial cultivation of genetically-modified mustard to Union minister for environment and forests Prakash Javadekar in New Delhi on Friday.

During an impromptu meeting, Union minister for environment and forests Prakash Javadekar assured a five-member delegation from Sarson Satyagraha, a coalition opposing GM mustard, that the Central regulator Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee would not give consent to commercial cultivation of GM mustard in its ongoing meeting.

 

A petition with 42,000 signatures, started on change.org by activist Vandana Shiva, urging the Centre not to allow commercial cultivation of genetically-modified mustard was submitted to Mr Javadekar by the delegation during the impromptu meeting with him.

The delegation’s unexpected and unplanned 20-minute meeting with Mr Javadekar took place after the chairman of the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee walked out of the Union environment ministry to invite a delegation of protesters, who were raising slogans and giving speeches against GM mustard under the banner of Sarson Satyagara, to join the meeting of the GEAC. The invitation was promptly declined by Sarson Satyagraha’s Kavitha Kuruganti, the convenor of ASHA. The GEAC chairman, Hem Pande, finally buckled under the protesters’ pressure to allow them to personally hand over the petition to Mr Javadekar.

 

“We told Mr Javadekar that GM mustard should never be commercially cultivated,” said Rajinder Chaudhury, a member of the delegation representing farmers’ groups, civil society organisations, activists, students and researchers from different states. The delegation told the minister that GMO regulation has to begin with a needs assessment, and whether alternatives are available or not, and applications should not be processed routinely without policy directives put into place. The delegation also demanded that the minutes of the meetings of the GEAC should be made public. The delegation also pointed out that there was no participation from the Union health ministry on the GEAC. The minister assured the delegation that they would be called for future discussions on GM mustard.

 

“Mr Javadekar said he wasn’t aware that data from the field trials of GM mustard had not been made public, and that he would sit in with the GEAC to understand the complexities more thoroughly,” the delegation said.

If commercial cultivation of GM mustard is allowed, it will become the first GM food crop in India. The only other GM crop allowed for commercial cultivation is Bt cotton, while a moratorium on commercial cultivation of Bt Brinjal was imposed in 2010 by the previous government. Activists believe that use of GM mustard will introduce carcinogenic herbicides in food, antibiotic resistance, and there is also the likelihood of the sterility gene moving from the plant to humans. Activists have also claimed that non-GM mustard hybrids can give as much or more yield than GM hybrids. There is also fear of control over seeds by multinationals. An additional threat from GM mustard is the pollution and ultimate loss of indigenous mustard varieties.

 

“GM mustard will cause destruction whether we protest it or not,” said farmer Sunil Arya during the protest.

“The GEAC’s past conduct does not inspire trust, and we were invited only when pressure increased and we sent scores of letters to you,” Ms Kuruganti told the chairman, Mr Pande.

“We will come for a meeting only when you release the data of the tests that have been submitted to you. “

Mr Pande said the GEAC is seeking more data on the trials of GM mustard, and won’t release it till the body understands it. His claim that the data had been submitted to the states was countered by the Delhi government’s water and tourism minister Kapil Mishra who said that the Delhi government never received any data.

 

While saying that releasing the data of the GM mustard trials would affect intellectual property rights, Mr Pande said that this was no way to discuss science.

Sarson Satyagraha was launched in July 2015 as a broad umbrella of organisations that seeks to keep India GM mustard-free. Bhartiya Kisan Union, Kheti Virasat Mission, Beej Bachao Andolan, Vividhaara, KHANA, Kudrati Kheti Abhiyan, PAGMF, Greenpeace India, NHCPM, Kisan Sewa Samiti, INSAF, Delhi Organic Farmers Market, Sansad, Campaign for Conservation & Community Control over Biodiversity, and others were represented in the protest.

Location: India, Delhi, New Delhi