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Mainstream, VOL 60 No 46 November 5, 2022

All India Kisan Sabha on GM Mustard - Press Release Oct 31, 2022

Friday 4 November 2022

All India Kisan Sabha

kisansabha[at]gmail.com, New Delhi-1

Press Release 31.10.2022

News reports have misrepresented comments of AIKS General Secretary Hannan Mollah on GM Mustard and given an impression that the All India Kisan Sabha is welcoming the GEAC decision. These reports have wrongly conveyed an impression that AIKS is in a tearing hurry to welcome GM Mustard.

The AIKS has noted that the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) has given a green signal to production and testing of genetically modified mustard seeds as a step towards making GM Mustard available for cultivation by farmers. AIKS believes that science-based solutions are key for agricultural growth, achieving self-sufficiency in production of food, and increasing incomes of farmers. Development of high yielding seeds of mustard is important for making oilseed cultivation more remunerative for farmers and reducing India’s import dependence for edible oils.

However, the experience shows that, in recent times, such technological solutions have been used to further corporate interests rather than interests of farmers and consumers. AIKS is of the view that public sector resources should be used for producing seed varieties with desirable traits which can be reproduced by farmers, and do not increase dependence on private seed companies. The DMH-11 Mustard is a hybrid seed (and not a seed variety) which will have to be purchased by farmers afresh in every season. Although developed in the public sector, the technology is likely to be handed over to private companies for large-scale production of these hybrid seeds. At the moment, there is no institutional, regulatory framework to ensure that these seeds will be made available to farmers at low cost.

The development of DMH-II hybrid seeds involved genetic modifications for facilitating cross-breeding between parental lines, which results in enhancement of yields, and for introducing herbicide tolerance to Glufosinate. While the objective of yield enhancement is important, introduction of herbicide tolerance needs to be considered with caution. In the recent years, there has been a very high increase in use of highly toxic herbicides in India. Given the weak regulatory and extension systems, introduction of herbicide tolerant varieties could be fraught with risks of promoting uncontrolled use of toxic agrochemicals in food crops. The legal provisions for regulating sale and use of pesticides are very poorly implemented. Multinational agrochemical producers like Bayer, in connivance with a vast network of pesticide dealers, con the farmers into using expensive and extremely toxic pesticides. Given the shambles extension services are in, farmers are forced to rely only on prescriptions by pesticide dealers, who have a vested interest in selling expensive pesticides, for dealing with diseases and pests. As a result, farmers often end up incurring large expenses on pesticides that are not even appropriate for the specific problems faced by farmers. These toxic agro-chemicals also adversely affect the health of farmers, agricultural workers and consumers. In view of this, full information about benefits and risks involved in promotion of such herbicide-friendly varieties needs to be made available.

It is not clear from publicly available material whether high-yielding hybrids without mixing herbicide tolerance have been (or can be) developed by the Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants of the Delhi University. Such seeds could give the benefit of yield increases without promoting the use of toxic herbicides. If necessary, further research in this direction should be conducted.

Critics have also raised other questions about ecological and health-related impacts of introduction of DMH-II. These needs to be addressed through objective, rigorous and transparent scientific evidence. The BJP government must come clear and address all concerns and not rush into any commercial release of GM mustard.

Sd/- Ashok Dhawale, President, AIKS
Sd/- Hannan Mollah, General Secretary AIKS

All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS)
36, Pt. Ravi Shankar Shukla Lane, New Delhi-110001
Phone-011-23782890, web: www.kisansabha.org

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