Farmer organisations in India remain opposed to GM crop trials
Representatives rubbish media reports that suggested that an understanding had been reached between their organisations and the government via closed-door meetings
EXCERPT: SJM and BKS representatives who attended the meeting however said that contrary to threadbare discussion, members of the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee — the country’s top biotech regulator — did not provide answers to any of the issues raised by them.
RSS outfit against GM crops, field trials
The Statesman (India), 3 Feb 2015
Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)-affiliated farmer organisations Swadeshi Jagran Manch (SJM) Bhartiya Kisan Sangh (BKS) today clarified they remain opposed to genetically modified (GM) crops, including field trials of the same.
Speaking to The Statesman, BKS’ Mohini Mohan Mishra and SJM’s Ashwani Mahajan rubbished reports in a section of the media that suggested that an understanding had been reached between these organisations and the government via closed door meetings. Mr Mishra, in fact, said there had been backward movement as far as resolving issues was concerned between two meetings held on 10 January and 29 January this year.
Accounts of participants in the 10 January closed-door meeting about what transpired therein are varied. A senior official of the Mumbai-based think tank Rambhau Mhalgi Prabodhini (RMP) who refused to be identified said there was “threadbare discussion” between scientists and anti-GM activists from SJM and BKS. RMP was the primary moving force behind the meeting.
SJM and BKS representatives who attended the meeting however said that contrary to threadbare discussion, members of the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee — the country’s top biotech regulator — did not provide answers to any of the issues raised by them.
“We raised our concerns about the impact of GM crops on health and environment, the scientific basis of claims regarding GM crops and conflict of interest among scientists trying to push through GM crops in the country,” said Mahajan.
The meeting was held in the premises of Rambhau Mhalgi Prabodhini, which was set up in memory of long time RSS worker and BJP legislator Rambhau Mhalgi. When the meeting’s convenor Sanjay Panse was asked about the absence of prominent civil society anti-GM groups like the Coalition for a GM Free India and Alliance for Holistic and Sustainable Agriculture (ASHA), he said invites had been sent to them, but were ignored.
Both these groups, however, said they did not receive any invitation from RMP for the interaction. ASHA and the Coalition have been in the forefront of the civil society movement against introduction of GM crops. Rajesh Krishnan from Coalition for a GM Free India said negotiations without the more prominent civil society anti-GM groups were an eyewash.
Referring to the meeting, Panse said the primary issue for RSS-affiliated farmer organisations were royalty and seed monopoly. The meeting had close to 30 participants, including Ranjini Warrier from the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee, Monsanto India managing director (MD) Shilpa Divekar Nirula, Mahyco MD B R Barwale, Metahelix MD K K Narayanan, among others.
Mishra from the BKS said people in the GEAC and those advising the Maharashtra government on GM crops had vested interests. “Why are the companies not being penalised for the failure of genetically modified Bollgard I cotton. Is this country a dharamshala (rest house)?”
SJM’s Mahajan attacked the Maharashtra BJP for doing a U-turn on GM crops after coming to power in the state. The party had promised not to pursue GM crops in its election manifesto until such time when all contentious issues are resolved. But the Devendra Fadnavis-led government issued No Objection Certificates (NOC) for conducting field trials for five GM crops on 29 January, the day representatives of SJM and BKS met Minister of Environment, Forests and Climate Change Prakash Javadekar.
BKS and SJM said they would continue their opposition. Coalition for a GM Free India and ASHA have already attacked the state government for the clearances and have sent a letter to the CM seeking cancellation.