Shut the door on GM crops, parl panel tells govt
The parliamentary standing committee on agriculture has recommended shutting India's doors to genetically modified (GM) crops in a report tabled in the Lok Sabha on Thursday.
Committee chairperson Basudeb Acharia said that the concerns regarding the potential and actual impacts of GM crops on India's food, farming, health and environment were vaild. "GM crops are just not the right solution for our country," he said at the release of the report in New Delhi.
Acharia alos criticised the union government for promoting GM crops. "The government should stop parroting the promotional lines of the biotechnology and seed industries and their cronies within the technocracy and stand by scientific reasoning and greater public good," he said.
The committee, over a period of two and a half years, travelled across the country and consulted the various stakeholders in the debate including farmers, farmer unions, biotechnology industry reprsentatives and relevant departments in the union and state governments. It had also spoken with senior scientists in the agriculture, nutrition and biotechnology sectors as well has many civil society activists.
The report, titled 'Cultivation of Genetically Modified Food Crops – Prospects and Effects', also cites the example of Bt cotton, the only GM crop cultivated in the country. Bt cotton has failed to improve the socio-economic condition of cotton farmers. The report noted that the cultivation of Bt cotton had, in fact, furthered the distress of such farmers in the rainfed areas of the country. These areas have become imfamous as pockets of farmer suicides. The parliamentary panel also held a public consultation at Yavatmal in Vidharbha where Bt cotton growers had gutwrnedhing stories of the distress that is now symptomatic of the country's agrarian crisis.
The report highlighted the loopholes in the current regulatory system on GM crops including the proposed biotechnology regulatory authority of India (Brai). The committe suggested that the country should have a regulatory body which had bio-safety as its main manadate instead of approval of products of the biotechnology industry.
The committee also put it weight behind a greater say of the state governments in introduction and trade of GM products. In its report, the committee strongly advised the discontinuation of open field trials of GM crops to avoid the danger of intra-species contamination of indigenous and traditional crops. Many advocacy organisation, including Greenpeace, had over the years highlighted cases of field-trial violations by GM seed companies. Greenpeace had noted in a press release that open-air field trials of Monsanto's GM Maize are underway in Punjab and Haryana.