Field trials of 15 genetically modified (GM) crops approved recently by the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) may have to wait with the government saying it will not take a decision in a hurry, after two wings of the RSS -- Swadeshi Jagran Manch and Bharatiya Kisan Sangh -- opposed any such move.
A delegation of the Sangh's economic and farmer wings met union environment and forests minister Prakash Javadekar on Tuesday and conveyed its concerns about the approval given to field trials of GM crops by the committee on July 18. The panel had given its nod for field trials of genetically-modified rice, mustard, cotton and chickpea among other crops.
The SJM put out a statement after the meeting saying the minister assured the delegation that the decision about the field trials had been put on hold. However, Javadekar said the committee had cleared the proposals but the government had not taken any decision as yet. "We will not rush into it. We will hold consultations with the stakeholders before taking any decision," he told dna.
The Sangh affiliates said, "In India, as in many other part of the world, a few multinational corporations, principally Monsanto, have a virtual monopoly on the GM technology. If a country's food production becomes overly dependent on seeds and other inputs from a handful of such companies, will it not compromise its food security?"
On July 19, the SJM had issued a statement saying the approval of field trials was a betrayal of people's trust as the BJP had promised in its manifesto that the GM foods will not be allowed without full scientific evaluation on the long-term effects on soil, production, and biological impact on consumers. It said that neither government nor the GEAC had disclosed the contents of promised scientific evaluation, if any or what changed between April, 2014 and July, 2014 when the field trials of GM Food crops were approved.
The delegation, which met the minister recalled that the parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture, headed by CPM's Basudeb Acharia, had in its report on GM food crops in 2013 recommended the 'stopping of all field trials under any garb'. It also said the Supreme Court appointed 'Technical Expert Committee' comprising eminent scientists from all relevant fields in their final report also had highlighted the inherent risks associated with open release of GM crops and the absolute failure of the regulatory mechanism in India.
The SJM and BKS are of the view that the technology involving introducing a 'foreign' gene, was dangerous as it would be irreversible. It also said there was no scientific study to prove that GM technology does increase productivity and the environmental costs could outweigh any benefits that the introduction of such a technology brings.
At present in India, government has only allowed commercial use of Bt Cotton which is grown in over 10 million hectares across the country.
His successor Jayanthi Natarajan had also maintained a tough stand on the issue but her successor M Veerappa Moily favoured it and since March 2014 GEAC has cleared 60 proposals of field trials of GM crops.