Diabolic game

There is reason for serious concern over the collusion between government and industry on the question of approving genetically modified (GM) crops in India. A parliament panel on GM crops has drawn attention to serious irregularities in the way approval was given to Bt brinjal’s commercial release without conducting adequate tests.

Bio-safety tests were not conducted ahead of approval. In its report, the panel has pointed out that “tremendous pressure” was applied on the approval committee by “industry and a minister.” 

In a stinging indictment of the way decisions are made by the government, the panel has drawn attention to “collusion of the worst kind” between ministers and the industry. In view of these irregularities, the panel has recommended a ban on GM crops, a halt to ongoing field trials to prevent contamination, a thorough probe into the approval process and a revamp of the regulatory system.

It is worrying that sections of the government see themselves as promoters of the interests of industry rather than the welfare of the people of this country especially on issues that impact enormously on the health and well-being of people.

GM experts and activists have been raising their voices over the dire consequences of GM vegetables and fruits. Even if Bt cotton is not a food crop, its GM ingredients have entered the food chain and has impact on humans, animals, environment, etc.  But these concerns were shouted down repeatedly by ministers, officials and a section of scientists, who echoed the promotional lines of the GM industry. The panel is unambiguous in stating that GM crops are not the right solution for India.

Not only are GM crops harmful to health and environment but also their introduction into Indian agriculture has destroyed lives and livelihoods. The roots of the problem of farmers’ suicides can be traced back to the introduction of GM crops in this country.

Impoverishment and indebtedness have existed for centuries pushing many to take their lives. But it is with economic liberalisation, the introduction of GM crops and the capital-intensive agriculture it required that poverty and debt intensified like never before, pushing millions of farmers to take the extreme step of committing suicide.

A probe into the role of GM’s promoters in the government is urgently needed. Hitherto the government has been dealing with the agrarian crisis by writing off loans. An honest approach would require eliminating the root problem – GM crops. The government must act immediately on the parliamentary panel’s recommendations.

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