As ever, Luddites have won In Kerala. The state assembly today passed a resolution, demanding that the centre withdraw the decision to grant permission for production and cultivation of Genetically Modified Mustard seed.
It would have been a unanimous passage of the bill but for the solitary BJP MLA O Rajagopal. The ruling Marxist led Left Front and the Congress led United Democratic Front who have been going at each other’s jugular in the assembly and on the streets sunk their differences to vote out the new “threat” that would destroy traditional seeds and make farmers depend on multinationals for their cultivation.
Moving the resolution, Agriculture Minister V S Sunil Kumar said it was "unfortunate" that the centre's Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) had accorded sanction for production and cultivation of GM mustard. GM crops would be cultivated in the country if it was also approved by the Environment Ministry and "it is a very serious issue", he said. He demanded that the centre not implement GEAC's decision as GM seeds, he said, would adversely affect farmers and the agriculture sector. He said most states are also against GM crops.
GM mustard is the second food crop which got the nod of the GEAC after Bt Brinjal. But the then Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh had refused to give his approval. The genetically modified crops have been facing continued resistance from science-sceptics and the support they gain from Luddites and compulsive contrarians. If Prime Minister Narendra Modi defies Opposition, the country could make giant strides in mustard production.
The Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants (CGMCP), Delhi University South Campus, had submitted an application to the GEAC for the environmental release of GM mustard (Brassica Juncea) hybrid DMH-11 and the use of parental events (varuna bn 3.6 and EH2 mod bs 2.99) for the development of a new generation of hybrids.
The environment ministry had received over 700 comments from various stakeholders, including farmers and researchers, on the Assessment of Food and Environmental Safety (AFES) report on GM Mustard, which it had earlier posted on the ministry website.
The application was submitted in 2015 after which several rounds of meeting were held by the GEAC. The sub-committee also convened meetings with experts. The GEAC also heard the views of various NGOs not in favour of giving an approval to GM crops.
The Kerala Minister, not known to be any sort of authority on the subject, said it has not yet been proved if GM crops would result in more yields, and claimed that it has been found that GM seeds attract new insects. Powerful pesticides would have to be used to safeguard crops from attacks of these insects, which in turn would harm human health, he said.
The minister alleged that some vested interest groups, taking cover under efforts to achieve self-sufficiency in edible oil, were trying to get sanction for GM mustard.
GM trials were progressing in 75 varieties of crops and their target was to get approval for all crops one by one after getting sanction for GM mustard, he alleged.
"This move is dangerous to the country, farmers and also the agriculture sector," he said adding GM crops are against the interest of the people.