A group of scientists and environmentalists have criticised an “advisory” from the government to the working scientists and retired employees of public sector organisations, refraining them from talking against genetically-modified (GM) mustard.
In different letters to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar and Director General of ICAR Himanshu Pathak, they alleged that a recent government statement issuing “gag” orders would go against the right to express one’s views.
“It is an attempt to silence the voices of scientists in the public sector by invoking administrative procedures. They have even included those who retired from the service,” they pointed out. “We urge the Department of Agriculture Research and Education (DARE) to immediately withdraw the instructions. It is tantamount to a gag order, denying scientists the right to practise science in its true spirit and present evidence-based analysis,” the letter said. The signatories include V. S. Vijayan (Honourary Chairman of Salim Ali Foundation, Thrissur), S E Pawar (former BARC scientist) and Gunathilagaraj Kandasamy (Entomology).
In the controversial letter, seen by businessline, the ICAR warned scientists in government service that action would be taken against any “unauthorised opinion” on the approval of GM mustard hybrid.
Himanshu Pathak, who is also the Secretary of DARE, said several myths were being propagated in relation to the GM mustard hybrid by the opponents of genetically modified technology. “All the national agencies and public research systems are officially involved in the risk assessment of the product for its being safe to humans, animals and the environment,” he pointed out.
Pathak said the recent approval for the environmental release of genetically modified (GM) mustard DMH-11 and its parental lines by GEAC had attracted the attention of the press and public at large.
Stating that the issue has generated huge public interest, he defended GM technology and asserted that it was important to increase yields in several crops.
“We are issuing this statement in public interest to clarify that any opinion or article published on the subject by anyone not authorised or former employees of ICAR, different from the stated documentation and decisions made by the regulatory authorities are subjected to administrative procedures,” he said.