Major farmers’ unions in India protest regulatory approval for GM Mustard

In a strongly worded letter to the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, The Indian Coordination Committe of Farmers’ Movements (ICCFM) – one of India’s largest network of farmers’ unions, has rejected the regulatory approval given for GM Mustard in the country. 

Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC), a body that functions under the Environment Ministry, on Thursday (May 11) gave its recommendation to approve the long-pending application of the Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants at Delhi University which had developed a transgenic mustard called DMH-11. (Indian Express).

Once approved by the Minister’s office, the commercial cultivation of GM Mustard would ensue and farmers’ unions have warned that such an action would only benefit large agribusiness corporations at the cost of small farmers.

The reason being cited for introducing this crop is better oilseed production through higher yields. In reality, this GM mustard yields lower than many recent, popular hybrids and varieties. The testing has been rigged to have favourable results for this unsafe GMO. Some of us who participated in a special GEAC meeting have found that the regulators are biased, unscientific and even lack integrity required.The GEAC has ignored all the many valid questions raised by scientists and others and chose to function in an unscientific and biased fashion. By clearing GM mustard, the GEAC has shown itself to be anti-science, anti-farmers, anti-environment and anti- consumers.”, the letter noted. 

It also pointed out the role of liberalisation and free trade regime in breaking the country’s self sufficiency in oil-seed production. 

In the letter, farmers’ leaders noted, “You may recall that India was nearly self sufficient in oil seeds. Only after that, in 1994, when cheap oil imports began after liberalization, the local market was crushed and our self sufficiency was eroded. Now, proponents of GM Mustard claim that it will increase yield and reduce our imports! We urge you to address the root cause of the issues, asymmetrical and harmful trade agreements”

In India, there is are no laws yet that mandate labeling or segregation of GM and non-GM food. Farmers also fear the risk of contamination in their fields. “The food supply being contaminated by GM crops is a risk we farmers are not willing to take. Long-term, independent studies to verify the safety of GM crops have not been completed. The studies which exist were completed by the corporations themselves: how can the sick man be his own doctor? In countries such as the United States, citizens are unaware that 90% of their food is genetically modified and are rushing to get it labeled. Corporations are blocking them. Citizens want to know if their food is safe. Why are the corporations so scared if they have nothing to hide? India can go one step further by stopping the invasion of GM crops before it is too late. Before we are another example of a country who jumped on the “technology” wagon without realizing it was a doomed journey.”, noted the letter. 

The leaders also said, “Oil seed production has taken a hit due to bad pricing/procurement support from the government, and inappropriate anti-farmer import policies adopted by the government. It is not because we are unable to produce enough or do not have the seeds or know how. If the pricing, procurement and import policies are made farmer friendly we assure you that we can produce all the mustard and other oil seeds the country needs.”

Farmers’ unions have warned that they would take to the streets in large numbers if the government fails to intervene and stop the entry of GM Mustard. 

To read the letter and to see the full list of signatories, click here

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Image Credit: Outlook