Coalition for GM Free India Urges the Chief Minister of Maharashtra to halt the permissions for open field trials of GM crops in the state

In the wake of media reports about the Maharashtra Govt granting No Objection Certificates (NOCs) for the open air field trials of GM crops in the state, the Coalition for a GM Free India along with the Coalition for a GM Free Maharashtra has sent a letter ( Fwded below) to the Chief Minister of Maharashtra urging him not to overlook the growing scientific evidence on the adverse impacts of GM crops as well as the public opposition to it.

The fact that the announcement regarding approvals of field trials was made on the sidelines of an event arranged by the International biotechnology industry lobby group, ISAAA shows in a way the influence International biotech giants like Monsanto as well as their Indian promoters have in every government. Besides this there seems to be no basis on which these open trials could be permitted at a time every other credible agency be it the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture or the Supreme Court appointed Technical Expert Committee or the TSR Subraminiam committee appointed by the Union Minister of Environment, Forests and Climate Change to look into environmental laws in the country have cautioned against any open release of GMOs at this juncture.

One hopes that the Chief Minister, whose governing values is to put ‘People first’, would put science and society before profits of seed companies and reverse the NOCs which were granted.

To:

Shri Devendra Fadnavis,
Hon’ble Chief Minister,
Government of Maharashtra.

Dear Sir,

Re: Serious concerns around approval for open air field trials of five GM crops in Maharashtra – reg.

It has been reported in the media that the Government of Maharashtra has granted No Objection Certificates(NOCs) for allowing open air field trials of five Genetically Modified (GM) crops in the state. These crops include three major food crops of India.

It is shocking that the State has gone ahead with the NOCs at a juncture where all other states have said NO to field trials of GM crops due to the inherent problems with the technology and associated issues experienced with field trials in India and other countries.

As you may be kindly aware, the Supreme Court-appointed Technical Expert Committee(2013), the Parliamentary Standing Committee on GM crops (2012), the recent Subramanian Committee (2014) have all strongly recommended that open air field trials of GM crops not be granted. In addition, it has been specifically pointed out by these committees that crops where India is the Centre of Origin/Diversity should not be under any circumstance allowed to be genetically modified and tested in open air. This would jeopardize the gene pool in the place of origin. Rice, brinjal and chickpeas have India as their Centre of Origin/diversity. In addition, with regard to Bt brinjal, since the moratorium was imposed in 2010, no new evidence has emerged attesting to its need or its safety. On the contrary, further problems with health and environmental impacts have been revealed in new reports. You would also be kindly aware of the fact that the Sopory Committee report, commissioned by the Union Agriculture Ministry, has confirmed that contamination during field trials has indeed happened in the case of a GMO that was tested in the country.

All states including other BJP-ruled state governments like Gujarat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh as well as non-BJP state governments like West Bengal, Odisha, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Bihar etc., have refused NOCs and continue to say no to open air field trials in their states . Therefore it is perplexing on what basis Maharashtra has taken this decision. The question arises as to what additional information the State of Maharastra has, to allow field trials. In fact, given the severe agrarian crisis that the state has become infamous for, it would call for greater caution and prudence from the government.

Further, the process of NOCs is also questionable. The announcement regarding approvals of field trials was made on the sidelines of an event arranged by the biotechnology industry lobby group ISAAA . One of the members of the Maharashtra State Committee (responsible for granting NOCs) was releasing the lobby group report ( on GM crops) and also revealed that the field trial approvals have been granted by the state. This member had in the past resigned from the apex regulatory body GEAC due to a controversy related to his industry association and conflict of interest. This points to undue access and influence the biotech industry lobby may have on the Committee members and throws doubt on the impartiality, neutrality and objectivity of the process of granting NOCs. The state government panel being headed by a nuclear scientist is also ironical, given that biosafety expertise is specialised and missing in the panel or its Chair.

It was mentioned in the news report that all field trials would be conducted within University campuses, even though previous experience has amply demonstrated that University campuses are on one side ill-equipped to deal with the complex biosafety mechanisms needed, including basic conditions like the necessary isolation distance, while on the other, these campuses are large repositories of our germplasm wealth. GM crops trials in close proximity to these will jeopardize the germplasm as contamination possibilities are high. Therefore, this is no way a safe guard.

As explicated by the various Committees and from evidence from past field trials it is amply evident that we have no biosafety norms in place to deal with this inherently dangerous, irreversible and unpredictable technology, which is quickly becoming undesirable and obsolete in many countries.

By approving these open air trials of unknown new organisms in Nature, the state government is making a statement that it abides by the industry pressure rather than uphold citizens’ right to biosafety – safe environment and safe food.

We urge you to urgently examine these approvals and immediately reverse the decision in the interests of biosafety, livelihood security, environment and public health. We also hope you will grant us a meeting so that we can discuss our concerns in person, present our scientific evidence as well as share viable alternatives that the state can pursue.

Sincerely Yours,

Rajesh Krishnan, Shamika Mone,
Convenor, Coalition for a GM Free India Coalition for a GM Free Maharashtra
Mob:07559915032, 9845650032 Mob: 8888862293
rajeshecologist@gmail.com

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