News from India: Madhya Pradesh says no to GM crops / Stalemate at meeting on Bt brinjal
1. After Bihar, Madhya Pradesh says no to GM crops
2. Madhya Pradesh protests against trials of GM maize - Calls for India's national policy on GM to be reconsidered
3. Govt of Indian state of Madhya Pradesh says NO to any GM field trials
4. Stalemate at meeting on the commercial release of Bt brinjal
1. After Bihar, M.P. [Madhya Pradesh] says no to GM crops
Mahim Pratap Singh
The Madhya Pradesh government has decided to prohibit any environmental release, including field trials, of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs).
In a letter to Union Minister of Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh, Agriculture Minister Ramkrishna Kusmaria has strongly stated that due to insufficient research on their safety and impact on human beings and the environment, the State government has decided to ban field trials and release of GM crops in the State unless there "is clear evidence of [their] safety, proven beyond doubt."
With this, Madhya Pradesh has become the second State, after Bihar, to officially oppose GM crops.
In March this year, Mr. Ramesh had instructed the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) not to clear any field trials of GMOs without approval of the State government concerned.
Dr. Kusmaria has further written that GM crops led to seed monopolies, violated farmers' rights and were a threat to the country's sovereignty over food and agriculture.
Move after protests
The decision was triggered by State-wide protests over multinational corporation Monsanto's open-air field trials of GM Maize in Jabalpur.
Dr. Kusmaria also found it "shocking" that the trials were approved by the GEAC during the 2010-11 Rabi season.
"The approval was granted without our knowledge. The Madhya Pradesh government is committed to organic farming and we will not allow GM crops in the State," Dr. Kusmaria told The Hindu.
‘Review GMO policy'
The Minister also advised Mr. Ramesh to reconsider the policy on GMOs at the national level as the view that GM crops were a panacea to hunger was misplaced and there were several other environment-friendly alternatives to tackle the problem of insects and pests affecting crops.
However, while the State government has consistently maintained its anti-GM stand, two small changes that have been incorporated in its revised organic policy for 2010-11 indicate a major shift.
According to points 6.7 and 6.8 of the policy "an aware outlook in keeping with national and global standards" would be kept towards the promotion and spread of GM crops in the State.
Several open-air field trials approved by the GEAC ”” of crops such as potato, rice, rubber, sorghum and maize ”” are being conducted across the country.
2. MP [Madhya Pradesh] protests against trials of GM Maize
The Times of India
Apr 28, 2011
NEW DELHI: After Bihar complained against the clandestine experiments of GM food crops in the state, it is Madhya Pradesh's turn now. State agriculture development minister Ramkrishn Kusmaria has written to the Centre against the clearance by Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) to GM Maize trials in the state.
GEAC is the statutory authority under the environment ministry to clear trials and introduction of genetically modified crops. It had come under flak from environment minister Jairam Ramesh for permitting GM food crop trials without his knowledge. Ramesh's ire against GEAC was a consequence of Bihar CM Nitish Kumar's complaint that agriculture was a state subject and the Centre could not decide on the issue on its own.
Now Kusmaria has written along the same lines to the central government. "The GEAC has given permission for trials of GM Maize in Madhya Pradesh. It is shocking to see that during Rabi season 2010-11, the GEAC had given permission in India for open air trials of even Monsanto's GM Maize," he wrote.
"Government of Madhya Pradesh has taken a decision to prohibit all environmental release of GMOs and keep the state totally free of GM food. We would also request you to reconsider the policy on GM in the national scale and declare a moratorium on all GM food crops," he added.
While Ramesh had put a moratorium on the introduction of Bt Brinjal by Monsanto, a complete ban on all GM food crops has not been proposed or discussed at the Centre.
To the contrary, a committee set up by Ramesh to review the biosafety concerns about Bt Brinjal met for the first time amid accusations that it was consulting only GM crop developers who would naturally favour the introduction of other GM food crops.
Anti-GM crop groups also warned that at least five members of the committee reviewing Bt Brinjal were themselves involved in GM crop development. They noted that one member J L Karihaloo -- was part of an organization funded by Mahyco.
3. GM crop: MP govt says no to field trials
Apr 28, 2011
Madhya Pradesh on Wednesday announced that it would not allow field trials of any genetically modified (GM) crop and its open releases until the global debate on the issue was settled forever and there was clear evidence of safety. The Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) has permitted field trials of GM Maize in Jabalpur in the state.
The state government's stand on GM food was clearly spelled out in a letter written to Union Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh by state's Farmers' Welfare and Agriculture Development Minister Dr Ramkrishna Kusmaria. "It's shocking to see that GEAC has permitted open field trials in India of Monsanto's GM Maize containing both the Bt and herbicide-tolerant traits in a stacked-genes product," the minister wrote. He claimed that recent studies have shown that introduction of Bt gene was a dangerous mistake and timely intervention from civil society and the environment ministry led to moratorium on it.
The minister said open field trials pose great risks of contamination and bio-safety violations. Kusmaria reminded Ramesh that MP has already taken a decision to prohibit all environment release of GMOs and keep the state totally free from GM food.
4. No decision taken at experts meet on Bt Brinjal
No decision was taken at the first meeting of experts that deliberated on issues relating to the moratorium on the commercial release of Genetically Modified Bt Brinjal.
The experts were invited by the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) for their views on the controversial issue.
Noted agriculture scientist M.S. Swaminathan, however, recused himself from the meeting.
He told The Hindu that being a member of a Parliamentary Committee that was looking into the issue of Genetically Engineered Crops and Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), he would not participate in any such deliberations.
Moratorium or not?
While there is no indication from the government that this was a move to lift the moratorium imposed by Union Environment and Forests Minister Jairam Ramesh last February, civil society groups claimed it was a step in that direction particularly since some of the experts involved were seed-developers and were a part of the GEAC that cleared the Bt Brinjal seed. The developer, Mahyco, had sought permission of the GEAC for commercialisation of their Bt Brinjal seed last year.
While imposing a moratorium on commercialisation of Bt Brinjal, Mr. Ramesh had said that the moratorium "will last till such time that independent studies establish, to the satisfaction of both public and professionals, the safety of the product from the point of view of its long- term impact on human health and environment, including the rich genetic wealth of brinjal in our country."
He had also referred to the existence of ecologically friendly and successful alternatives such as Non Pesticide Management for solving pest problems in crops.
NGOs can't stop us, says Ramesh
Asked by The Hindu whether the meeting of experts meant the moratorium was being lifted, Mr. Ramesh retorted: "NGOs cannot stop us from holding a discussion on the issue."
In the meeting, there was a view that there was no need for further testing of Bt Brinjal. Some members were also apparently in favour of "limited, partial, highly-regulated release of Bt brinjal" with testing, if any, taken up simultaneously.