Before the crucial hearing on 9th November on the interim report of the Court-appointed Technical Expert Committee (TEC) in the GMOs PIL in the Indian Supreme Court, major farmers’ unions across the country have sent letters to the Court, urging it to put an end to field trials of GM crops. These include many of the biggest and most active farmer unions with many lakhs of farmers as members. Letters asking the Court to take on board all the recommendations made by the TEC were sent by Bhartiya Kisan Sangh (BKS), Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU), All India Shetkari Shet Mazdoor Sangh (AISSMS) affiliated to Hind Mazdoor Sabha, AP Rytu Sangam affiliated to All India Kisan Sabha, All India Kisan Mazdoor Sabha, A.P. Seed Farmers’ Association, Laghu Seemanth Krushak Morcha (Uttar Pradesh), Karnataka Pradesh Red Gram Growers’ Association, Krishak Sangharsh Samithi (Odisha), Gujarat Khedut Samaj, South Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers Movements(SICCFM) (consisting of unions like Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha, Tamizhaga Vyavasayigal Sangam, Kerala Coconut Growers’ Association, Adivasi Gothra Maha Sabha etc.) amongst others.
The interim report on field trials of GM crops was submitted by the TEC on the 7th October and in the last hearing on the 29th of October the Court said that it wanted to hear the views of stakeholders like farmers’ unions.
South Indian Coordination Committee of Farmer Movements (SICCFM) said: “We believe that transgenics will affect our diversity and that this is an unneeded, hazardous technology. We welcome the interim report of the TEC of the Supreme Court. We believe that given that the Government of India also got to nominate its experts into the TEC, it should abide by the TEC’s recommendations. We urge the Hon’ble Court to immediately pass all appropriate orders based on the recommendations of the TEC”.
Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU), in its letter to the court said “One of the primary concerns of the Bhartiya Kisan Union is the issue of unsafe Field Trials happening in the country. There have been several incidences of illegal Field Trials happening across various parts of the country, by biotech companies like Monsanto, Syngenta, Du Pont etc. and civil society groups and Farmer Unions have repeatedly expressed their dissent towards such unwanted activities.” BKU also stated that “it is apparent that statutory Rules, bio safety norms and simple federal polity are repeatedly being defied. Further, there is no rationale for which crops and which traits and which locations would field trials be allowed. There is neither technical rationale (no need assessment, for instance; field trials allowed in biodiversity hot spots or allowed in university campuses which act as germplasm repositories for example) nor democratic decision-making underpinning any of these trials (trials continuing despite a lack of need expressed by majority farmers’ unions).”
Bharatiya Kisan Sangh (BKS) said in its letter to the Court that “India is considered as a country with a rich yet delicate biodiversity heritage. We are also the Centre of Origin and/or Diversity of various crops like rice, brinjal, mustard, many pulses, fruits etc. It is shocking to see that the impact of GM contamination has never been considered while approving open releases of GM crops in the name of field trials.It is to be noted that even USA, which is hailed as the champion of GM crops has a norm of not planting GM cotton south of Florida which is considered as the center of Origin of highland cotton. Similarly China, in their new draft grain law, has decided not to permit any genetic modification in their staple crops”.
Andhra Pradesh Rythu Sangham affiliated with All India Kisan Sabha said, “We are concerned that the multinational and big Indian seed companies and their lobbies are pressurizing the Indian government and research institutions, and spreading wrong information to push the GM crops even when their safety is under question. We believe that the recommendations are in the interests of the Indian farmer, who is suffering from the onslaught of anti-farmer policies and technologies.”
All India Shetkari and Shet Mazdoor Sabha (AISSMS) affaliated to Hind Mazdoor Sabha (HMS) in its letter stated that “One of the primary concerns of AISSMS is the capability of our regulatory system to monitor and contain the GM crops being inadequate thus leading to possible contamination. The haste with which the govt has gone ahead in promoting and allowing research as well as open releases shows lack of transparency, rigour and precaution”.
Most of the farmer unions have raised concern about mindless approval of herbicide tolerant GM crops. Strongly supporting the TEC recommendation on this matter the submissions from the Farmer Union urged the court not to permit any open trials of HT crops as they pose a grave threat not just to the health and environment but also to the rural economy and livelihoods of the crores of small, marginal and landless women farmers who depend on farm labour like weeding to make ends meet.
The farmer Unions while making a case in support of the TEC report have also pointed to the Parliamentary standing committee on Agriculture’s report on GM food crops which had recommended the government for an immediate stopping of field trials.
YOU CAN DOWNLOAD THE FARMER UNION LETTERS TO SC HERE:
Bhartiya Kisan Sangh letter