GM food not the panacea: Basudeb Acharya


Trithesh Nandan | August 4, 2011

Ahead of the release of the standing committee report on genetically modified (GM) foods, chairman of the parliamentary standing committee on agriculture, Basudeb Acharya said GM crops are not the panacea for India’s agriculture problem. “GM technology food does not increases production but decreases the loss,” Acharya told reporters on the release of Greenpeace report “Herbicide tolerance and GM crops” on Thursday.

“There is a serious concern on the socioeconomic impacts of GM crops. One cannot label destructive farming as progressive science and force it down the throat of millions,” the chairman said. “On the one hand we have seen how these GM crops are leading to monopoly of the companies like Monsanto in the seed sector on the other hand such technologies like herbicide tolerant GM crops will destroy the rural livelihoods dependent on agriculture.”

Acharya added that the committee will submit a report to parliament on GM foods before the tenure of the present committee expires on August 31. “We have already started drafting of the report. A new committee will come in existence from September 1, so we want to submit report by the end of this month,” the CPM leader pointed out.

The committee received more than 5,000 memoranda on the subject from across the country. There were 25 discussions held on the issue in five states in the last one year as part of the consultation done by the standing committee on agriculture. “All the contentious issues related to GM food crops are there in the forthcoming report. The scientific committee is divided on this issue,” Acharya said. However, he did not comment on the report further.

Greenpeace Report

A report by the Greenpeace India said that use of glyphosate-based herbicides poses risks to human health as well as environment. The report accused multinational biotech companies - Monsanto, Pioneer and Dow Agrosciences of aggressively pushing for herbicide tolerant GM crops in India. “Monsanto has been trying to introduce herbicide tolerant GM maize in India. Presently GM maize field trials are allowed in 11 locations across 8 states in the country,” the report held.

The report compiled from data from the across the globe said, “Glyphosate can cause serious health effects like human birth defects, abnormalities in vital reproductive hormones as well as blood cancer.”

The task force headed by agriculture scientist MS Swaminathan reported, “India should not permit herbicide tolerant GM crops as they would lead to loss of employment in the agriculture sector especially for women whose survival depends on manual weeding.”

“It is shocking that open field trials of such risky crops are being permitted without any safety study being conducted independently,” said Kapil Mishra, sustainable agriculture campaigner for Greenpeace India.

Greenpeace also demanded proposed biotechnology regulatory authority of India (BRAI) bill to be put in the public domain. The BRAI bill is likely to be introduced in this session of parliament.



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