On Gandhi Jayanti this year, thousands of citizens joined Sarson Satyagraha in large numbers in scores of locations across 18 states, to express their resistance against GM mustard (and GMOs in our environment). They asserted that this GM mustard is unwanted, unneeded and unsafe. The Satyagraha took various forms in different parts of the country, ranging from Gram Sabha resolutions to remain GM-Free, to taking part in a mustard celebration festival organized by Delhi Government to collect public feedback on the issue of GM mustard. Many eminent citizens, scientists, artists, film personalities, farmer leaders and activists joined these events across the country. This Satyagraha is about scientific integrity, about sustainability, about sovereignty and about social justice, explained the organisers. Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chattisgarh, Delhi, Gujarat, Haryana, Karnataka, Kerala, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Pondicherry, Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal citizens took part in the country-wide coordinated set of events.
Meanwhile, the Government of India, bypassing scientific rigour and democratic spirit in its keenness to approve GM mustard, announced that it will not extend the public feedback timeline beyond the originally announced date of October 5th 2016, and continued to refuse to publish the GM mustard biosafety dossier on the Ministry of Environment’s website, violating Orders by the CIC and Supreme Court. In the recent past, many eminent citizens, large formations of farmer movements, dozens of scientists and others have written to the Government of India asking it to be scientific, comprehensive, transparent and participatory in its processes of assessment and decision-making related to GM mustard. Many state governments, including Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh which are the top two mustard cultivating states, have in the past stated their opposition to the release of GM Mustard. Bihar and Delhi have already written to the Centre against GM mustard and others like Punjab and West Bengal have announced that they will not allow GM mustard. Recently Kerala government had passed a resolution to oppose GM mustard approval and participated in the Kadugu Sathyagraham observed all over the state today.
While the processes for decision-making are adamantly unscientific and undemocratic, the GEAC’s sub-committee and its green clearance to GM mustard pose big questions on why science is being compromised and why lies are forming the basis of this promotion of GM mustard by the Government. Evidence has already been presented about its hasty processes, its U-turns, its conflict of interest, and importantly, its lack of all areas of expertise in being able to certify the safety of GM mustard.
“We have now understood well about the farcical and sham processes of consultation that GEAC is engaging in, in a biased and selective fashion. The sub-committee’s last meeting was in April 2016, and no more meetings after that, even though we have been invited to present in July 2016 wherein we gave a lot of evidence that any scientist with integrity would have been concerned about”, said Kavitha Kuruganti, Convenor, Coalition for a GM Free India. She further stated that, “Now we have the beekeepers and honey industry pointing out that they have valid concerns about their livelihoods and enterprises. But the regulators and the government are turning a deaf ear to them. So, it is a case of ignoring science, commerce, federal politics and citizens’ interests in this mindless push for a junk product. What is worse is that the government ignores its own party members and affiliated groups in its undemocratic ways”.
Sarson Satyagraha organisers called upon all independent scientists from various concerned areas of expertise to speak out now, to ensure that regulation is rigorous, independent and transparent. They also called upon state governments to assert their constitutional authority over Agriculture and Health and write to the Centre before it is too late. They called upon citizens to assert their right to safe food and environment, and right to informed choices, and ensure that governments are accountable towards citizens.
Meanwhile, a fresh application has been filed in the Supreme Court of India, showcasing the fraudulent and deceptive R&D and testing of GM mustard, praying for a prohibition on open air field trials and commercial release of herbicide tolerant crop in India including GM mustard, due to the variety of serious risks that they pose, and seeking a moratorium on commercial release of any GM crop.
Notes to Editor
All information regarding GM Mustard is available in http://indiagminfo.org
For More information:
Kavitha Kuruganti – 8880067772
http://indiagminfo.org/?p=1475 has the details of the events organised across the country.