Friday, 12 October 2012

CIVIL SOCIETY GROUPS FOR IMMEDIATE HALT ON TRIALS OF GM CROPS IN HARYANA




The activist organizations today (7 October 2012) gathered enough intellectual fuel to kindle fire for spreading awareness in favor of putting immediate ban on all types of trials of transgenic crops in Haryana. Under the banner of the ‘Alliance for GM Free Haryana’, a call was issued to various voluntary organizations, independent thinkers, scientists, science communicators, economists and concerned farmers to assemble at Rohtak to convey  grave apprehension about the 15 ongoing field trials of GM crops, particularly Maize, in Haryana. The Alliance urged the state authorities to put an immediate end to the trial programs carried out by Monsanto and Syngenta & other international Giants in R&D of GM seeds and transgenic plants, in collaboration with CCS Haryana Agriculture University at Hisar. Doubts were expressed at the free and sovereign functioning of the both the central as well as state governments.

In the deliberations that continued until late in the afternoon, Mr. Sunder Lal convener, Alliance for GM free Haryana, informed that most farmers as well as the common persons were ignorant about the technology of transgenic crops, its fatal consequences on the health of human beings, domestic cattle, wild life and plants in the environment. While delivering the start-up address at the seminar Mr. Sunder Lal was of the view that GM crops and food could be the harbinger of ecological and economic disaster for India. He felt that there was strong need to make the people of the state aware about all its harmful aspects so that they could understand the pros and cons before raising genetically modified crops in their fields and produce food grains and vegetables. Mr Sunder Lal lamented that the state government has allowed the  field trials of GM maize in Haryana in spite of clear reservations followed by recommendations by the Standing Committee of Parliament on Agriculture for discontinuing the fields trials in its report entitled ‘Cultivation of Genetically Modified Food Crops – Prospects & Effects’.  

Mr. Gurnam Singh, President of the Haryana unit of Bhartiya Kisan Union informed that in the meeting held at Chandigarh on this September, 19 the Minister of Agriculture in Haryana agreed to hold a face-to-face dialogue between the Govt. scientists and representatives of the activist groups including other experts who would deliberate and decide on a future course of action regarding the application of transgenic technology in food crops in Haryana. However, the Minister expressed inability to stop the ongoing trials on the stance that the Central govt. had examined the issue in detail that enabled the State government to provide No Objection Certificate for the trials. Mr. Singh pointed out that in case the state government maintains its adamant stance, the option of destroying the experimental crop as last resort would be examined. He further emphasized that efforts at the BKU level will, however, continue for finding an amicable solution through dialogue with state government representatives.   

Dr Mahaveer Singh Narwal, a reputed & experienced scientist who had earlier worked at HAU in seed technology department, explained that the move of the state govt. in allowing the multinational seed corporations to pave way for introduction of GM crops via field trials might become troublesome for the farmers as well as unassuming consumers. He warned that hitherto the agricultural activity has been a means of sustainable livelihood for the farming community whereas the state government viewed it as commercial favour to private enterprise. He cited example of the Bt cotton that has ensured no superior and safe lifestyle to the farmers, so far. Monsanto’s charges for single transfer to Bt gene to a research agency or organization such as an agriculture university, may be over ten million of rupees which is unethical as well as forbidden in terms of price. He felt aggrieved at the indifference of the government scientists in remaining compliant and not exposing the appalling designs of the multinational seed companies which are trying to introduce potentially hazardous modification into our food grains.

Mr. Kapil Shah from Baroda - Gujarat elucidated through a power point presentation the science and technology used for creating transgenic organism and crops and said that it could not be equated with  thoroughly monitored medical products such as human insulin. Mr Shah made an emphatic statement on how GM crops can adversely affect health.  Mr. Pankaj Bhushan from Bihar, a well known activist against GM food and crops, felt the need for intensely motivating and influencing the opinion of members of Parliament from Haryana, about various undesirable consequences of GM food and crops on human health. Expressing apprehension over the passage of the draft of Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India Bill (BRAI), he feared that it could prohibit citizens of India from seeking information about GM Food and technology even under the RTI Act-2005 which might restrict civil liberties. Dr. Rajinder Chaudhary of ASHA who has been intensely popularizing organic farming in Haryana opined that it would be more appropriate to put in place a Bio-safety bill rather than pursue BRAI and elaborated on the need to allocate more resources on sustainable mode of agriculture in Haryana.   

Ranbir Phaugat, a seasoned science communicator, expressed concern that due to poor understanding of science by common persons in Haryana it might require grand efforts for mobilizing public opinion touching various aspects of GM Food and crops. It might necessitate networking and a resourceful coordinating agency to fulfill the mission. ‘We need to bring the government across the table for open-end intellectual debate on the issue and convince them that GM food and crops should not be allowed until their safety concerns are established through long term studies’, he observed. He emphasized the role of media in spreading the message and appreciated their objective approach in reporting about the adverse consequences of GM food and crops. Mr. Singh added that reputed scientific and learned journals everyday publish research reports and findings about terrible effects of GM food and crops. Expressing concern about absence of uploading information about GM crops trials on the website of the State government or of the concerned department(s) as well as the Agriculture Commission, he indicated that the whole activity could have been made transparent long ago had it been followed.

All the participants were unanimous on the points about the need to put an immediate end to the trials of GM crops in Haryana and that an open, state-wise debate should start for making people aware about the dangers of GM food. There was no valid ground for the state government in allowing trials for GM crops in the light of the fact that several state governments in India have either withdrawn permission or rejected applications of multinationals for conducting field trials of GM crops. Learned journals such as Nature have published scientifically valid studies about the toxic and long-term harmful effects consequential to consumption of GM food.

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