"If there is one thing that is a constant, it is the propagation of the myth that GM crops are a necessity, if the world has to feed its growing population. The same myth is propelled in India as well, both by the seed industry and its supporters, including our Union agriculture minister, Sharad Pawar. However, the latest global food projections by USDA show that the current world food production can feed 13 billion people, double the existing population.."
25 Jan, 2013, 06.01AM IST,
By Samit Aich
"It is my duty to adopt a cautious, precautionary principle-based approach and impose a moratorium on the release of Bt brinjal, till such time independent scientific studies establish to the satisfaction of the public and professionals the safety of the product from the point of view of its long-term impact to human health and environment, including the rich genetic wealth of brinjal existing in the country," said the then-Union minister for environment, Jairam Ramesh, on Bt brinjal moratorium. This decision, he further stated, "is both responsible to science and responsive to society", which also represents the GM debate in India.
The debate around Bt brinjal and the democratic process created by Jairam Ramesh at that time set a global precedence. It created the space for scientific concerns on the impact of GM crops on human health and the environment, besides those on socioeconomic considerations.
It is not surprising to see the opposition to GM crops in India, like elsewhere, was started by scientists on the impact of GM. Stalwarts like Dr M S Swaminathan and Dr Pushpa Bhargava have recommended precautionary-based approach towards Bt brinjal and, more recently, the Technical Expert Committee (TEC) appointed by the Supreme Court has emphasised on a science-based cautious approach towards open releases of genetically-modified organisms (GMOs). It proves that the science community continues to have concerns around GM crops.
The TEC, made up of eminent scientists from the fields of molecular biology, toxicology, biodiversity and nutrition science, in their interim report to the court, highlighted the potential impact of GMOs on health, biodiversity and socioeconomic realities and the abysmal standards of GM regulation in India.
While the biotech seed industry lobbies went around town tarnishing the TEC recommendations, more than 120 scientists made a submission to the Supreme Court urging the Hon’ble judges to accept the TEC report. More than 20 farmer unions from across the country too wrote to the apex court demanding the same.
In the last 15 years, India has witnessed modern biologists, socioeconomists, ecologists and health experts raising concerns on the mindless rush towards GM crops. It is unfortunate that these scientific concerns are being sidelined and trampled by the powerful GM lobby led by MNCs like Monsantoand their cronies. GM crops are a false solution to the global food and farming crisis.
If there is one thing that is a constant, it is the propagation of the myth that GM crops are a necessity, if the world has to feed its growing population. The same myth is propelled in India as well, both by the seed industry and its supporters, including our Union agriculture minister, Sharad Pawar. However, the latest global food projections by USDA show that the current world food production can feed 13 billion people, double the existing population.
Similarly, in India, we are sitting on one of world’s biggest hoards of food grain around 667 lakh tonnes (till January 1, 2013), which is 2.5 times more than the government’s benchmark for buffer stocks. It is disgusting how 21 million tonnes of wheat perish every year due to lack of storage and distribution facilities. How is it that the government insists on more production in the name of food security while we sit on mountains of food grain, wasting it?