Odisha citizens’ groups rally against GM mustard


A Round Table meeting of citizens’ groups including major farmer unions held on the subject of GM crops in general and GM mustard in particular on August 21st 2016 demanded that the state government of Odisha write to the Centre cautioning Government of India against approving any GM food crops like GM mustard in India. 

Participants appreciated the positive role played by the state government earlier in the case of Bt brinjal, and reminded the state government that it had taken the proactive step of letting the Centre know of its concerns and reservations against such GM food crops in 2009-10. Given that mustard is an important crop for Odisha, both from a production and consumption point of view, they urged the government to write to the Centre immediately on the matter of GM mustard.

They pointed out that unless the state asserts its Constitutional authority over the state’s agriculture, it will not be able to implement its GM-free policy. Farmers’ and consumers’ right to choices will also be violated if GM food crops like GM mustard are allowed.

Given that mustard is widely used in all cuisines across India, they expressed their objection against any moves by the Centre to approve transgenic mustard, that too in the name of yield improvements, given the fact that many alternatives to GM mustard exist for yield improvements. This includes the fact that non-GM hybrids are available for farmers in the market, in addition to agronomic innovations like System of Mustard Intensification. 

They expressed their alarm that the Centre is processing a GM application that chose not to reveal the fact that the GMOs in question are herbicide tolerant (HT) crops. This will increase chemical usage in our farming in addition to displacing poor agricultural labourers from their employment. This has direct implications for all consumers with greater toxic residues in our food. This is all the more shocking given that the matter is sub-judice in the Supreme Court of India.

They added that this is not just about transgenic mustard, since it is only a Trojan Horse that will open the flood gates for dozens of similar crops and land our whole agriculture, farmer livelihoods and biodiversity in a major crisis. They said that the failure of Bt cotton on delivering on all its promises, and causing severe crisis for farmers vindicates their stand. States like Punjab, Haryana, Gujarat and Maharashtra have been affected badly with huge pest attacks and yield losses, and state governments have been actively urging their farmers to grow traditional desi cotton. Unfortunately however, traditional seed stocks and diversity have already eroded in a market monopolized by MNCs like Monsanto – this is what citizens’ groups have warned about for long, when they urged caution on GM crops like Bt cotton. We don’t want a repetition of this story in any other crop, they warned.

They urged the Chief Minister of Odisha, Shri Naveen Patnaik, to make special efforts to intervene on this matter on a priority basis, as mustard sowing season was fast approaching and the central regulators could take a decision on the matter any day soon. The Centre deciding on this matter will be a violation of federal polity of the country, they said.

The citizens’ groups also warned the state and central governments that they will step up their resistance if unwanted, unneeded and unsafe GMOs are thrust upon citizens of this country. 

Endorsed by:

1.       Ashok Jena, Navanirman Krushak Sanghatan

2.       Seemanchal Nahak, Rushikulya Raitha Mahasangha

3.       Panchanan Dalapathi, Krushak Vikas Manch

4.       Lingaraj Pradhan, Jai Kisan Andolan

5.       Saroj Mohanty, Paschim Odisha Krushak Sanghatan Samanvay Samiti

6.       Prafulla Samantara, Loka Shakti Abhiyan

7.       Dasharathi Behera, Deshi Bihanu Surakhya Manch Odisha

8.       Amiya Pattnayak, Congress Kisan Cell

9.       Prashant Paikray, Kisan Sabha

10.   Tapan Padhi, Mission Justice

11.   Debiratha, Sipasaru Bali Sangharsh Samiti

12.   Byasadev Barik, Samoohik Marudi Pratikar Udyam

13.   Sabarmatee, Seed Conserver

14.   Puspanjali Satpathy, forest rights activist

15.   Amiya Pandav, Editor, Akshyar

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