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Approval of field trials of GM food crops - A betrayal of people's trust

Swadeshi Jagran Manch has received the news reports of approval of field trials of GM food crops by Genetically Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC), under the Union Ministry of Environment & Forest, with shock, disbelief and anguish. Clearance of field trials for 15 Genetically Modified (GM) crops, which include major food crops such as rice, sugarcane, chickpea, brinjal and mustard among others, has been given in a meeting of the GEAC held on Friday.

People of India who have elected BJP to power are feeling deceived. They had voted BJP to power on the promises the party made to the people of India in its manifesto 2014 and speeches made by the leaders during the election campaign. On GM food crops the party was emphatic in stating, “GM foods will not be allowed without full scientific evaluation on the long term effects on soil, production, and biological impact on consumers.” This was on April 7, 2014 when the manifesto was released to the public. Neither the government nor the GEAC has disclosed as yet the contents of promised scientific evaluation, if any or what changed between April 7, 2014 and July 18, 2014 when the field trials of GM Food crops were approved.

Swadeshi Jagran Manch wants to remind the government that moratorium on open field trials of GM food crops was the result of long and difficult struggle by people of India including Swadeshi Jagran Manch, farmers, scientific experts, consumers activists and other stakeholders. The Supreme Court of India has also been of the clear view that no hasty decision in this regard shall be taken that puts the health of people and soil at risk.

The Supreme Court appointed technical expert committee had recommended an indefinite moratorium on the field trials of GM crops till the government came out with a proper regulatory and safety mechanism, the same has not been done till date. The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture that included members of present regime in a report in August 2012 had also asked for a ban on GM food crops in the country.

It is well established beyond any doubt that claims made by GM industry like enhancing of productivity, maintaining soil health and eliminating risk to human life are highly exaggerated. There is no scientific evidence about the positive impact of GM crops on productivity. Government is duty bound to have its own understanding based on trials and studies conducted by trusted institutions. Government must respect the views of reputed institutions like Hon'ble Supreme Court of India and Parliamentary Standing Committee.

Swadeshi Jagran Manch urges upon the government to immediately put on hold the approval given by the GEAC. SJM further calls upon the government not to rely on the biased and manipulated reports of vested interests among the industry and institute enquiries about the likely impact of GM food crops on soil, human and other species' health to ensure that no harm is done to traditional gene pool /biodiversity of the nation, soil, food security and health of the people of India.

Dr. Ashwani Mahajan
All India Co-convener, SJM

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