When confronted by scores of farmers of the Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha (KRRS) and South Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers’ Movements (SICCFM), from four states of South India, Veerappa Moily, the Union Minister for Environment and Forests, today claimed that ‘as far as his knowledge goes, he had not approved any field trials of GM crops’.
The farmers had gone to demand that the permission he gave to the regulators to go ahead with clearances for GM field trials be revoked and that he also explain the fresh basis on which he reversed his predecessor Jayanthi Natarajan’s decision to suspend approvals given by GEAC. Moily told the protestors that “he had only looked at the file and returned it” and did not approve any trials.
“We are not sure if Veerappa Moily is telling the truth or only presenting smart lies in front of us. If this is indeed true that he only looked at the file and returned it, this means that Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) which is meeting on March 21st 2014 to give further approvals for GM crop trials should not give any clearances, since the earlier Minister’s orders will still be binding on them. Jayanthi Natarajan, in her letter to the Prime Minister dated 9th July 2013.
that she had ‘felt it important to await the final judgement of the Supreme Court in this matter, and particularly with a view to avoid any disrespect to the Hon’ble Court directed that further proceedings may await the decision of the Supreme Court’ (which incidentally is on April 15th) – which means that this view of the Minister has to continue to prevail on the regulators”, said Mr K T Gangadhar, President of Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha.
Earlier in the day, scores of farmers of the Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha (KRRS) and South Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers Movements (SICCFM) staged a protest march and sit-in at the residence of Veerappa Moily in Bangalore. This was in response to the recent announcement by the Minister in a press conference in Delhi (on 27th February 2014) to permit hundreds of field trials of GM crops including GM varities of rice, wheat, maize etc across the country.
The decision had been widely condemned by farmer unions, civil society, political parties etc, given the growing evidence of adverse impacts of GM crops to farm livelihoods, human health and environment.
“This is a clear turnaround from what the Minister announced in Delhi and seemed to have done, in terms of giving a go-ahead to the 117th meeting minutes of the GEAC. If he is hiding behind semantics by saying that he did not clear field trials, we want to warn him that we will come back in greater numbers to protest these lies from him.
If he is speaking the truth that he has not made any file notings at all or give clearances, we want him to give express instructions now to the regulators not to clear any trials in the upcoming meeting, given the amount of confusion prevailing on the subject”, said Chukki Nanjundaswamy, working president of KRRS.
“GM crops are the latest tools in the hands of Multinational seed companies to take control of our seeds. The decision by Moily to permit the experiments of these risky GM seeds of various companies like Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer, Dupont etc in our farms across the country shows that our governments are hand in glove with them in making that happen” said Kannaiayan Subramanian of SICCFM.
Addressing the farmers Badagalpura Nagendra, General secretary of KRRS stated that “It is unfortunate that such GM crops are being mindlessly promoted by the central and state governments even after the repeated failure of Bt cotton, the only GM crop approved for commercial cultivation in the country.
There was massive failure of Bt cotton reported in Karnataka in the last season which was acknowledged even by the Agriculture Minister in the Karnataka state assembly.
However, the compensation announced was measly and inadequate. The tragedy is that companies like Monsanto who own the Bt technology walk away with thousands of crores of Rupees earned as royalty from Bt cotton seed sales while the farmers are pushed to suicides. We want to warn the Karnataka government not to give any NOCs to field trials here; otherwise, farmers will be forced to ensure that these trials are cremated”.
The announcement by Moily late last month received flak from state governments including the Congress ruled Kerala government. The Chief Minister of Tamilnadu responded by saying that she will not permit field trials in her state. Various state govts besides kerala and Tamilnadu, like Bihar, West Bengal, Odisha, Madhya pradesh, Chattisgarh and Rajasthan had denied permissions for field trials in the past.
Hailing the recent statement by the Tamilnadu Chief minister J Jayalalitha to keep the state free from GM crop trials P.Suresh Kumar of Katchi Sarpartra Tamizhaga Vyavasaigal Sangam said that “agriculture is a state subject and it is unacceptable that the central government continues to peddle GM crops despite opposition from state governments.”
Those gathered also pointed to the reccomendations by the parliamentary standing committee on Agriculture which in its report submitted in 2012 highlighted the various concerns with GM crops and the inadequacy of its regulation in the country and strongly reccomended against any open release of GM crops including for field trials as they could lead to irreversible contamination of seed and food supply.
The Supreme Court appointed Technical Expert committee had also given similar recommendations last year.
“GM seeds are not just a threat to seed sovereignty of the country but also food safety and sustainability of our environment and they have no place in our country. Experiences with field trials both in the country as well as in other parts of the world shows that they can contaminate our seeds and food supply chains ” said Davison of Kerala Coconut Farmers Association. He further stated that “It is nothing but vested interests to promote GM crops when it is so clear that science and society are against it”.
KRRS and SICCFM declared that they will step up the campaign against GM crops and their promoters in the coming days, that this will be made into an election issue and that will not permit even a single field trial to happen in the state. They urged the Chief Minister of Karnataka to stand by the will of the people and deny any permission for such risky experiments in the state.
Below are the videos when Veerappa Moily spoke in Kannada to the farmers:
He stated that no permissions were taken from him for GM field trails.