Regulator GEAC “caught sleeping” once again
EXCERPT: [Kavitha] Kuruganti said that ironically, India's first GM crop cultivation — Bt cotton — was discovered in 2001 growing on thousands of hectares in Gujarat, spread surreptitiously and illegally by the biotech industry.
GM soyabean being cultivated illegally in Guj: Farmer group
Times of India, Nov 8, 2017
For the first time, illegal cultivation of a genetically modified (GM) food crop — GM Soyabean — which is herbicide tolerant (HT), has been reported from Aravalli district in Gujarat. Bhartiya Kisan Sangh (BKS), a national farmers organization, has claimed that Gujarat farmers have been cultivating herbicide tolerant (HT) crop illegally as there is no clearance from the government for any GM food crop yet.
The BKS general secretary Badrinarayan Chaudhadry told TOI that the organization held a press meet in New Delhi on Tuesday to announce the finding. "The HT soyabean was cultivated this year in three villages in the Modasa taluka in Aravalli district in Gujarat. The farmers produced three tonnes of the soyabean. Someone had given the farmers a buy back guarantee at four times the price of the soyabean in the market. This became the talk of the town and BKS came to know about it. We informed the state agriculture department which enquired into the issue and seized the seed material on Diwali day. The test results by government lab were found to be positive for the Roundup (glyphosate -the herbicide) of Monsanto," said Chaudhary.
Chaudhary said that BKS had also alerted the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) on October 20 but the committee has taken no cognisance of the letter. "Two FIRs have been filed against farmers," he added.
Kishore Tiwari, chairman of the Vasantrao Naik Shetkari Swablamban Mission (VNSS) Maharashtra's task force, said that he was told by certain farmers about the HT soyabean being cultivated from last three years in Yavatmal belt. "We have not been able to collect samples of the seeds," he said.
The Maharashtra agriculture minister Pandurang Phundkar and the state agriculture commissioner Sachindra Singh said that the government would set up an enquiry at the earliest on the issue as Maharashtra has a huge area (about 12 lakh hectare) under soybean. "Government would also tell the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) about it," he said.
The Coalition for GM Free India (CGFI) spokesperson Kavitha Kuruganti said that this time too the regulators have been caught sleeping. She has called for an urgent action to fix the liability on regulators as well as see suppliers.
Kuruganti said that ironically, India's first GM crop cultivation — Bt cotton — was discovered in 2001 growing on thousands of hectares in Gujarat, spread surreptitiously and illegally by the biotech industry. Around the same time in 2001, the GEAC was caught off-guard when news about large scale illegal cultivation of Bt cotton emerged, even as field trials that were to decide whether India will go for such GM crops or not were still underway. GEAC had ordered the destruction of all the illegally-produced GM material after confirming the presence of transgenic material, and asked for the purchase of such material from farmers if needed by the state government for destruction by burning. However, in March 2002, it ended up approving Bt cotton for commercial cultivation in India, and to this day, no liability was fixed for the illegal spread which presented a fait accompli to the regulators.