New Delhi: October 9, 2014: In the latest development on the raging debate around open trials of the controversial Genetically Modified (GM) crops in India, the Gujarat state govt communicated formally that No Objection Certificate (NOC), will not be given for any GM food crops in the state. The NOC is a statutory requirement from the state govts for conducting open air trials. Gujarat thus joins other states like Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Bihar, West Bengal, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana etc who had denied permissions for field trials of GM crops. The communication from the Department of Agriculture and Cooperation, Govt of Gujarat, was in response to a letter by Mr. Kapil Shah of Jatan, an organisation working for the promotion of ecological farming in the state, raising concerns on the open air experiments of risky GM crops. Talking about field trials the letter said that “after due consideration based on the various presentations received by this office, it is decided that NOCs will not be given to food crops.”
Welcoming the decision by the state government and terming it a very responsible one Kapil Shah stated, “It is a great relief for farmers and consumers of the state given that there is growing evidence on the adverse impacts of GM crops on human health, environment as well as farm livelihoods. Any open trials could become a potential source of contamination of our food and seed supply”. Mr Shah, a plant breeder and geneticist by training and a member of the newly constituted committee by the state govt. to draft the organic farming policy, also added, “It is a victory of people’s movements in Gujarat including farmers unions, scientists, consumer and environmental groups who had been fighting to stop open releases of GM crops in the state in the garb of field trials.”
The decision by Gujarat has once again highlighted the widespread opposition to open air trials of GM crops. Particularly disturbing is the recent flurry of field trial approvals by the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC), under the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF& CC), the nodal agency for any environmental release of GMOs in the country. GEAC had granted approvals for 47 such trials involving GM varieties of rice, wheat, maize, sorghum, cotton, brinjal, mustard, potato, sugarcane and chickpea across the country.
The Coalition for a GM Free India congratulated the Gujarat state govt for being responsive to the demands of its people and responsible to science. “It is heartening that a leading agricultural state like Gujarat has recognised that field trials of GMOs are the first environmental release of untested, unknown new organisms in nature and has decided to take a precautionary approach towards it” said Rajesh Krishnan, Convenor, Coalition for a GM Free India. He further stated that this decision is also in line with the recommendations by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture as well as the Supreme Court appointed Technical Expert Committee. Both had strongly advised against any open release of GMOs due to the scientific evidence on its adverse impacts as well as the inadequacy of the existing regulatory system.
“There is no dearth of scientific evidence to show that GM crops pose a serious threat to human health and biodiversity” said Kavitha Kuruganti of the Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture ( ASHA), lead author of the compilation titled “ADVERSE IMPACTS OF TRANSGENIC CROPS/FOODS – A COMPILATION OF SCIENTIFIC REFERENCES WITH ABSTRACTS”. The second edition of the compilation had more than 450 peer reviewed papers about the deleterious effects of GM crops .
The latest study pointing to problems with GM crops comes from Monsanto scientists. The study published by Brazilian scientists along with scientists from Monsanto, the US seed giant and the leader in biotech seeds, as co-authors has acknowledged that transgene insertions in GM crops can have unintended effects. The study shows how GM (HT Bt) soybean produced by Monsanto, resistant to herbicides containing glyphosate and capable of producing a Bt insecticide, helps the growth of certain non-target pest insect, causing considerable damage to the soybean crop . Citing the growing scientific evidence as well as public opposition Ms Kuruganti further stated, “GEAC’s mindless approval of GM crops is blatantly unscientific and undemocratic.”
With Gujarat also saying no to field trials of GM crops Maharashtra remains the only state where field trials are undergoing.The Coalition had earlier written to Prakash Javadekar pointing to the rampant violations at these GM trials of Monsanto in his home state as reported by media and demanded him to immediately stop all GM trials.
In the light of the new scientific evidence on adverse impacts of GM crops, the experiences with Bt cotton along with the increasing opposition from state governments the Coalition for a GM Free India urged Mr Javadekar, the Minister for Environment, Forests & Climate Change, to heed to voice of people as well as recommendations from credible agencies like the Parliamentary Standing Committee and the Supreme Court-appointed TEC and immediately stop all open field trials. The Coalition also demanded a comprehensive analysis of the Bt cotton, the only commercially cultivated GM crop in India, experience before promoting it further.
Notes to the Editor:
1. The official response ( in Gujarati) from Gujarat Govt http://indiagminfo.org/?p=771
For More information:
1. Kapil Shah, Jatan, Mob: 9427054132, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
2. Rajesh Krishnan, Coalition for a GM Free India, 9845650032, email@example.com