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Mainstream, VOL LV No 34 New Delhi August 12, 2017

Letter to the Prime Minister from Sarvodaya and Gandhian Workers

Saturday 12 August 2017


Shri Narendra Modi,

Prime Minister of India,

New Delhi 110001.

Dear Hon’ble Prime Minister,

Sub: GM Mustard — Request to reject commercial release

We, as members of the Sarvodaya movement and Gandhian networks, write to you, as consumers, as citizens of a democratic India and on behalf of all those who are concerned with the bio-violence that forms the inherent basis of the genetic modification technology. We have serious objections to the release of the Genetically Modified (GM) Mustard DMH 11 and are writing to you because this needs the attention of the Government of India at the highest level.

We strongly contend that GM crops have failed to deliver the much-hyped benefits. Transgenic varieties will contaminate all other crops and there will be no GM-free agriculture after a point. There is sufficient evidence to prove that GM crops are not safe for human health or for flora and fauna. Cancer is growing at an alarming rate and the ICMR projects 17.3 lakh new cases by 2020. We urgently need less carcinogens around us and more food safety, while GM crops will only increase use of dangerous toxins in agriculture. While 38 countries worldwide have banned GM crops and are moving towards

nonviolent organic agriculture,

we in India, through GM technology, are moving towards more violence to our environment and human beings. Once Frankensteinian genetics goes haywire, there will be no going back for the human race and new mutations will spread—permanently and globally.

GM Mustard will only act as a Trojan horse that will be used by the private sector and strong multinational companies to destroy the food sovereignty of the Indian farmer and the idea of Gram Swaraj will remain only lip-service by the government. The yield of hybrid varieties developed through traditional systems are more or at least equivalent to the GM Mustard.

We bring to your notice our adequately substantiated objections below and urge you to ensure that the government takes the right decision on this issue.

1. Gm Mustard is Herbicide Tolerant

Serious concerns have been voiced against Herbicide Tolerant crops from scientists and experts, particularly in the Indian context. The Technical Expert Committee (TEC), appointed by the Supreme Court, in the five-member report in 2013, devotes a section to the impact of Herbicide Tolerant crops. The Committee has recommended that field trials and HT crops not be allowed in India. Additionally, adoption of such crops will drastically impact rural employment, where manual de-weeding is a major source of employment.

2. Claims for Yield Improvements

The main basis on which this GM Mustard is being considered for approval for commercial cultivation is that field trials showed the overall average higher yield over “national check” and if this is commercialised, oil production will be enhanced and India’s edible oil import bill brought down. However, this is based on wrong claims and assumptions, as there exist other varieties and hybrids which give higher yields.

Worldwide experience shows that in the case of rapeseed, which is of the same family as mustard, countries which grow non-GM rapeseed such as Germany, France, England and the Czech Republic show yields much higher, almost double, compared to the ones which grow GM-rapeseed such as Canada and the US. Further, there are other non-seed-based agronomic approaches to increase yield as the System of Mustard Intensification (SMI). Experiences from Rajasthan (DRMR), Madhya Pradesh (Department of Agriculture) and Bihar (PRADAN/PRAN) show inpressive yield increases. Furthermore, this will increase chemicals and use of herbicides in our farms, with severe danger to public health.

3. Other Issues: Honey Production, Organic Farming, Ayurveda

Serious concerns exist about the impact on honeybees and honey production. Around five lakh beekeeper families are in India, producing 90,000 metric tonnes of honey, out of which 35,000 metric tonnes is exported, with an estimated value of Rs 350 crores. Around 60 per cent of the honey produced is mustard honey. The testing of impact on all pollinators, including honeybees, is very inadequate. Further, it is not tested as a Herbicide-Tolerant crop with the expected herbicide use. The Confederation of Beekeeping Industry of India has strongly opposed GM Mustard and is a key member of the Sarson Satyagraha.

As the Prime Minister, you have rightly emphasised organic agriculture as a priority through the Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana. This would make agriculture more sustainable and move towards higher income for farmers by reducing costs. Promotion of GM crops is completely incompatible with this approach. The non-GM status of Indian food crops has given an advantage to exports of Indian produce to European and other countries, which will be reversed with the entry of the GM food crops. Organic non-violent agriculture or Rishi Krishi is the need of the hour if public health and long-term food security is to be saved.

Similar is the complete disregard of the impact of GM Mustard on Ayurveda, though mustard is extensively used in Ayurveda. You would kindly recall that you had stated that your government is fully committed to promotion of Ayurveda and traditional systems of medicine. However, the testing and clearance of safety of GM Mustard neglects this.

We request you to recall that the BJP Election Manifesto had a commitment to the Indian public that “GM foods will not be allowed without full scientific evaluation on the long-term effects on soil production and biological impact on consumers”. This is indeed a case where full scientific evaluation did not happen, and no long-term effects were studied.

It is worth noting that cutting across party lines governing different States, governments are rejecting the transgenic option. You would recall the rejection of BT brinjal too. In view of all the substantive objections that we have put forward on GM Mustard and GM food crops, and the threat to public health and agriculture, we demand that the Government of India should reject GM Mustard and any other GM crop. We urge you to take this decision as the Prime Minister, in the interests of farmers, consumers and environment, and ultimately in the national interest.

Yours sincerely,

1. Dr S.N. Subba Rao, National Youth Project, New Delhi

2. Dr Rajagopal P.V., Ekta Parishad, New Delhi

3. Dr Ran Singh Parmar, Ekta Parishad, Gandhi Bhawan, Bhopal

4. Dayaram Namdev, Gandhi Bhawan, Bhopal

5. Sanjay Singh Gandhi Smarak Nidhi, New Delhi

6. Aneesh Kumar, Ekta Parishad

7. Anil Gupta, Ekta Parishad

8. Manish Rajpoot, Ekta Parishad, Rajasthan

and 28 others June 14, 2017

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