Subject : Comment on the 15 April 2013, Report of the High Level Working Group (HLWG) on Western Ghats ( Part 1 & 2 )
We have perused the Report of the High Level Working Group (HLWG) on Western Ghats and would like to provide specific feedback on the issues of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). We are dismayed to find that the HLWG has neither addressed nor provided a roadmap or advice to the government regarding Implementing this recommendation of the WGEEP.
This is a particularly notable and significant omission since the Western Ghats Expert Ecology Panel (WGEEP) had taken an unambiguous and clear stand about GMOs and recommended that the entire Western Ghats should be protected from the introduction of GM crops/trees and animals.
This was rightly done keeping in view the fact that on one hand the Western Ghats is a mega–biodiversity hotspot and the repository of invaluable biota and on the other GMOs is a risky, living, unpredictable and irreversible technology. The inadvertent or unavoidable spread of GMOs can cause irreversible and irreparable damage to the biota of the Ghats.
After carefully examining the HLWG report, it is interesting and pertinent to note the responses received by the HLWG from the six State governments falling in the Western Ghats zone, specifically regarding GMOs;
Out of the six State governments, four have responded on this recommendation. It is commendable that the State governments of Kerala, Karnataka and Tamilnadu have accepted to keep the Western Ghats region falling within their state GMO-free. The Government of Gujarat too has accepted it as a guiding principle. Only the State governments of Maharashtra and Goa have not commented on it.
In addition to this, the HLWG report reveals the fact that the stakeholders, who responded to WGEEP report, have favoured the WGEEP recommendation for GMO-free Western Ghats.
This is a welcome sign and a clear indication that states & people of this unique region understand the importance of keeping the entire Western Ghats free of GMOs. Therefore, steps have to be taken by your Ministry to give full support to the State governments that have agreed and engage with the others to keep the Ghats, free of any genetic interference / modification/contamination.
There is growing evidence about the adverse impacts of GMOs and considerable concern has been raised by nation-states, international bodies, ecologists, scientists and civil society about it. A recent compilation of over 400 scientific papers which point to the adverse impacts of GMOs has been compiled by the Coalition. (attached).
We would like to reiterate that we endorse the recommendation of the WGEEP regarding the Western Ghats free of GMOs and we urge your Ministry to take steps to implement the same at the earliest. There is no need to introduce GM seeds/ crops/ trees/ insects/ land & aquatic animals in Western Ghats. No GM field trials should be allowed at all in the entire region and cultivation of Bt Cotton should be phased out by making desi non-GM cotton seeds available.
It will not be wise to ignore the risks of ‘gene contamination occurring through use of GMOs’, as cautioned by the expert ecologist of our country, appointed by your own Ministry. The support from the states concerned & the public should help the Ministry to expedite action for protection of the Western Ghats from GMOs. With political will it is possible and we extend our wholehearted support to help your Ministry to keep the Western Ghats, an abode of many endemic species and a natural gene bank, free of GMOs.
Sridhar Radhakrishnan, Convener
(Phone : 09995358205)
Please find enclosed;
Our letter dated 3rd July 2012 on the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP) Report to MoEF
Compilation of Scientific Papers on Adverse impact of GMOs
CC: Smt. Jayanti Natarajan, Minister for Environment & Forests, Minister of State (Independent Charge) Ministry of Environment and Forests. firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
Dr. Amit Love,
Paryavaran Bhavan, CGO Complex,
Lodi Road, New Delhi – 110 003