A day after the Apex Court sought an explanation from the Centre on its proposed move to introduce genetically-modified (GM) crops in violation of a court-imposed ban, over 50 farmer organisations across the country slammed Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar for allowing the regulatory body to meet on February 5 to decide the fate of GM mustard.

In a joint statement, the farmer organisations, urged the Minister to immediately call off the slated “secret” meeting of the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC), warning him that, if forced, “the fate of GM mustard will be that of an unwanted Land Ordinance that the government pressed for again and again”.

Bio-safety data

“All major mustard growing States in India, including BJP-ruled States, heeding to citizens’ voices and scientific advice, have come out against GM mustard. They have also expressed concern about the secretive processes adopted by the regulators and for not putting out bio safety data in the public domain,” said the statement signed by All India Kisan Sabha, Bhartiya Kisan Sangh, Jai Kissan Andolan, Bharatiya Kisan Union, Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha, Tamil Nadu Farmers Association, Khedut Samaj, Gujarat, Telangana Rythu Sangham, Shetkari Sangathana, Maharashtra, Kerala Jaiva Karshaka Samithi, among others.

Safe alternatives

The statement, while wondering where “the need and pressure was emerging from”, said they were objecting to “the secretive manner in which the government was proceeding on this matter, without public scrutiny of data or any public consultations including with farmers’ unions, despite the GMO being created ostensibly for farmers’ benefit.”

Instead, they pitched for promotion of already available “feasible alternatives that are safe, affordable and farmer-controlled”.

“In the case of mustard, for instance, there are non-transgenic hybrids already available in the market, in addition to high-yielding mustard varieties. Further, new agro-ecological approaches like System of Mustard Intensification are out-yielding these unsafe solutions significantly, ensuring vastly-increased profitability for farmers, if yield is a concern,” the statement said.

Alleging that the government was not investing in these alternatives “probably because of collusion with the seed and chemical industry”, the statement cited the experience with Bt cotton,” which has not addressed the issue of farm crisis or reduced the number farm suicides”, and had led to higher agro-chemical use.