Agri Business

No scientific evidence GM crops unsafe: Govt

Our Bureau Pune | Updated on July 19, 2019

Activists decry statement, say various studies have shown their harmful effects

Even as Maharashtra’s farmers continue to sow HTBT cotton to protest the Centre’s ban on genetically modified (GM) crops, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change told the Lok Sabha on Friday that there is no scientific evidence to prove that GM crops are unsafe.

Answering a question on the safety of GM crops, Babul Supriyo, Minister of State for Environment, in a written reply said the Ministry has directed all States to constitute and strengthen the State Biotechnology Coordination Committees and District Level Committees to monitor illegal cultivation of GM crops. But at the same time, the Minister admitted that the Centre has no scientific evidence to prove that GM crops are unsafe.

As of now, Bt cotton is the only GM crop approved for commercial cultivation in the country after extensive evaluation and satisfying all regulatory requirements.

The Ministry has received complaints on illegal cultivation of Bt Brinjal in Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, Maharashtra, and Punjab. Earlier, a Central panel had found that farmers in Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Maharashtra cultivate unapproved HTBT cotton.

Last December, the Ministry of Agriculture had told the Rajya Sabha that the bio-safety studies conducted by ICAR Institutes indicated that there was no effect of GM cotton seed feed on animals, poultry, fishes and goats after feeding them on cotton seed cake or green leaves.

However, farmers are divided on the issue. Notwithstanding Maharashtra farmers sowing HTBT cotton, a section of farmers’ organisations has threatened to hold nation-wide agitation if the government fails to take strong action to stop the cultivation of GM crops.

PTI adds: Expressing shock at the government’s response on the safety of GM crops, Kavitha Kuruganti of the Coalition for a GM-Free India said: “There are hundreds of studies in the US and Brazil which show the ill-effects of GM crops on human health. Even in India, an independent analysis has shown that Bt brinjal and GM mustard are not safe. The government is wrong to make such a statement.”

Expressing a similar view, Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU) leader Yudhvir Singh said GM crops, especially GM mustard and Bt brinjal, were quite harmful but are being grown illegally. “GM mustard has a cancer-causing chemical while Bt brinjal, too, has a poison that can have ill-effects on human beings if consumed. There are thousands of studies showing that GM crops are not safe to consume. It is killing not just pests but humans also,” he said.

“Honeybees are getting killed by foraging on GM mustard crops. If they die, it will affect cross-pollination, which is an essential part of farming,” Singh said.

Published on July 19, 2019

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