Sharad Pawar’s statement on “if things go wrong” with GMOs….

Following is a letter from the Coalition for a GM-Free India to India’s Agriculture Minister, Mr Sharad Pawar on the statements he made in an interview with CNN-IBN on GMOs, the Supreme Court TEC report etc.

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: GM Free India
Date: 21 August 2013 14:39
Subject: URG ATTN: Urging you to abide by your statement made in a CNN-IBN interview “if things go wrong” with GM crops- reg.


Shri Sharad Pawar,
Minister for Agriculture,
Government of India.

Dear Shri Sharad Pawar,

Sub: Urging you to abide by your statement made in a CNN-IBN interview “if things go wrong” with GM crops- reg.

Greetings! This is in response to the interview you gave to Ms Rupashree Nanda of CNN-IBN, put up on the IBNLIVE website on the 3rd of August 2013[1] and telecast as a smaller clip subsequently.

1. We are glad to note that you have agreed in this interview that those who are raising concerns and asking for a proper machinery to be put into place for evaluating GMOs are right. You have also acknowledged that the Supreme Court is saying the same thing. But surprisingly, you have tried to subvert the process in the Court of independent experts taking a critical look at the current regulatory regime with an eye to making it robust and credible, by bringing an “expert” who represents conflict of interest given that his organization receives financial support from biotech corporations like Monsanto and Mahyco. We wish that you had respected the basic principle of independent scientific expertise guiding us in this effort, rather than vested interests and hope that at least in the future hearings, your Ministry will abstain from derailing fair processes of evaluation.

2. You argued your case around the need for trials, saying that testing is needed through (open air) trials and that stopping trials is an extreme step. We have presented on many occasions the risks associated with open air trials, that too of unknown organisms in the environment, compounded by the apathetic and irresponsible regulatory system in the country. It is well known that in India, there is no sequential testing that happens with regard to safety of GMOs and more importantly, though a Task Force on Agricultural Biotechnology was constituted by your Ministry in 2003, and its report accepted in 2004, one of the main recommendations of this Task Force related to Need Assessment, and Assessment of Alternatives, has never been followed in reality. This is also the matter that is being heard by the Court in any case, and like we mentioned earlier, did not require vested interests to step in. The only way that we can build public confidence in any regulatory regime is to rid such a regime of any traces of conflict of interest. In that context, what Dr R S Paroda has to say in the Supreme Court is just not credible and valid as far as we are concerned.

3. You tried to use the usual argument heard from you and other transgenic proponents in the past, trying to make it appear that Bt cotton has been an unqualified success in India and that it is because of the Bt technology used in cotton that India became an exporter of cotton, and has become the second largest producer of cotton in the world. We take this opportunity to point out that the truth lies elsewhere, and this is known to the top cotton scientists employed by your Ministry. Their analyses shows that cotton yield increases have been most impressive in years when Bt cotton has not expanded in the country and that yields have been on the decline in the recent past. The picture with regard to pesticide use is unclear too, even as it is very apparent that fertilizer use in cotton has gone up, irrigated cotton area has increased, and there has been a massive shift from varietal cotton to hybrids. You have repeatedly ignored these other determinants of yield in the past too and we would like to know what is at stake here, that Bt or transgenic technology has to be portrayed as the factor for the current cotton scenario in India by your ministry? Is it pressure from external forces? Is it lobbying by the industry? Is it the lack of any scientific study or post-release monitoring by the regulatory bodies? Is it just a mindset around what are considered as “frontier technologies”?

4. You mentioned in this interview that there are many countries in the world which are successfully taking advantage of this technology and improving their productivity and production. This is an incorrect statement. There are only a handful of countries around the world which have opted for GMOs in their food and farming. An overwhelming majority of countries have not, and therefore, the question of “many countries” taking advantage of transgenics does not arise. Further, there are studies, including by advocates of transgenic technology, that show that the picture with regard to yields is highly mixed across crops, regions and years. We also know that technically, no transgenic crop exists in commercial use out there which can increase yields. Your informants on this matter are propagating falsehoods and we urge you to verify the veracity of these statements.

5. You alluded to the Green Revolution in the 1960s, propagation of hybrid seeds and tremendous opposition to this in those days. Once again, this whole argument is incorrect, Sir. Green Revolution did not rest on hybrid seeds. And there was no opposition so to speak, leave alone tremendous opposition. The kind of public debate being witnessed with transgenic technologies is indeed needed on most agricultural technologies, given that technologies like pesticides or hybrid seeds or other technologies, indeed leave their own environmental, health and economic impacts on millions. As a healthy democracy, we should encourage democratization of science and technology related decision-making too at all levels; we should also be ensuring that such debates lead us towards greater social justice, plurality and sustainability and not away from them.

6. You brought in the usual Malthusian arguments around food security and tried to justify why transgenics are needed. However, as a letter to the Minister for Environment & Forests by scores of eminent scientists earlier this year pointed out (also available at ), transgenic technology has got nothing to do with food security – not in terms of increasing yields; not in terms of addressing the deep-rooted access and distribution issues hindering food security of millions and not in terms of ensuring sustainable development. What’s more, the countries which have adopted transgenic crops at a significant scale have deteriorating or decelerating food security indicators! We urge your ministry to drop this fallacious argument around transgenics needed for food security needs, given that the more pressing need is to revive the rural agrarian economy and focusing on agro-ecological alternatives that will improve production, reduce cost of cultivation, bring down indebtedness and reduce risks in farming.

7. When asked a specific question about foreign-funded NGOs coming in the way of promotion of GM crops, you gave an inexplicable response, Sir (though we are indeed happy that for the first time, it has been acknowledged that Monsanto is indeed a “controversial” corporation, even as a red carpet is being put out by governments here to this controversial corporation) – you implied that such NGOs are funded by the USA, and that double standards are being practiced in terms of America having accepted GM seeds, and spreading opposition elsewhere. This is again far from the truth. It is well known that America’s trying its best to push transgenics into India, as it is trying elsewhere too. The Bt brinjal R&D in India was supported by a USAID-led consortium project called as ABSP II, as you know. Lobby groups that are pushing GMOs into India like ISAAA or ABLE are supported by American corporations and foundations, as you are aware. It is an open secret that the American government sent Dr Nina Federoff during the Bt brinjal decision-making time in February 2010 to influence India’s public debate here, and that the Indo-US KIA has been used by the American side to push for regulatory changes in India to suit American economic interests. In Africa too, it is the funds of organizations like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation promoting transgenics as a development solution there. How is it plausible that you are arguing that America (its government or its corporations or its foundations or its citizens) are funding the anti-GM movement here, when the American agricultural economy depends on global markets accepting transgenics, including in India? Isn’t it obvious that corporations like American-headquartered Monsanto, which already controls 95% of Indian cotton seed market thanks to Bt cotton, is one of the biggest beneficiaries of the promotion of transgenics by your Ministry?

8. Finally, and importantly, Sir, in the initial part of the interview, you said categorically that “supposing something goes wrong,…..if it is affecting the environment, if it is affecting the soil, it is affecting water, if it is affecting other crops, this is affecting human beings, this is affecting animals, Yes, we have to take corrective action; Even, we have to stop”. We are glad that you stated this, Sir. Because we want to share with you overwhelming scientific evidence that shows that things indeed go wrong on all the fronts that you have listed, and more. Attached is a compilation of peer reviewed scientific studies, mostly independent, that show the adverse impacts of GM crops on the environment, on soil, on other crops, on health and so on (also available at: Since you have stated that we have to stop if things go wrong, we urge you to stop the promotion of GMOs in India, based on this evidence.


Rajesh Krishnan, Kavitha Kuruganti,
Co- Convenor, Member,
Coalition For GM Free India. Coalition For GM Free India.
Mob: 09845650032 Mob: 09393001550

Coalition for a GM-free India

Website:, email :, Facebook page – GM Watch India

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back To Top