Farm activists up the ante against GM crop cultivation

Farm activists up the ante against GM crop cultivation

Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee

File Photo for representation

Escalating their battle against genetically modified (GM) crop cultivation in the country, farm activists on Monday threatened to hold a nationwide agitation if the government failed to take stringent action to curb the illegal cultivation.

Addressing a press conference here, leaders of various farmer unions released a letter written to the apex regulatory body for gene technology, Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC), seeking fixing of responsibility and adequately punishing developers of GM crop cultivation.

The letter signed by the BJP Kisan Morcha, Bhartiya Kisan Sangh (BKS), Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU), Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha, Agragami Kisan Sabha, All India Krantikari Kisan Sabha (AIKKS) and Swadeshi Jagaran Manch and addressed to A K Jain, Chairperson of GEAC, also demanded new gene technology like genome editing under the purview of the Environment Protection Act (EPA) 1989 Rules.

A delegation had also met GEAC officials on July 12 to put forward their demands for regulatory improvements.

"We will strongly resist any move to bring in GM crops into the country, including through illegal cultivation, as was the case with Bt cotton. This is a clear case where the government has to take a sane policy decision using a precautionary approach and ensure that GMOs (genetically modified organisms) do not jeopardise our environmental sustainability, farmer livelihood or consumer health," said BKU's Yudhvir Singh.

Badrinarayan Chaudhary of Bhartiya Kisan Sangh urged the government not to fall prey to fake farmers' organisations in favour of GM crops.

"Those who are encouraging farmers to opt for, and grow illegal GM seeds are actually taking an anti-national step and in a way, this is bioterrorism. We, as aware farmer unions, demand that the government take strong measures to curb the spread of illegal GM seeds in India," he said.

Kavitha Kuruganti of Coalition for a GM-Free India said stopping the sale of glyphosate, a herbicide used to regulate plant growth and ripen specific crops, will go a long way in curbing the spread of GM HT cotton seeds.

"This step is much-needed not only to ensure that illegal GM cultivation is restricted, but also because glyphosate has many harmful impacts on human health and the environment. In fact, we need the government to institute a new scheme to support agricultural labour operations by using the MGNREGS implementation apparatus to create win-win solutions for farmers and agricultural workers," she argued.

The farm activists have been demanding immediate action against officials responsible for the spread of seeds of BT brinjal and its GM variants in the country.

In a letter to the Union Environment Ministry, a group of farm activists had demanded strict action against GEAC officials responsible for allegedly failing to implement the decisions taken in 2010 with regard to confiscation and containment of banned seeds lying with crop developers and state agriculture universities.