Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Farmers fear the impact of genetically modified mustard

Members of Kisan Seva Committee hold a protest against commercial cultivation of genetically modified crops (From left to right in third photo) Gurmukh Singh from Gurdaspur, Beant Singh, Bathinda and Balwinder Singh from Bathindah Singh, Gurdaspur

NIKHIL M GHANEKAR | Wed, 26 Oct 2016-07:10am , New Delhi , DNA
Farmers fear the impact of genetically modified mustard
Gurmukh Singh, 52, from Batala in Gurdaspur owns 12 acres of land of which he grows Mustard on four acres. An organic farmer, he saves seeds from his produce for each sowing cycle. Like his fellow farmers in Batala and many others from different parts of Punjab, Singh is miffed with the Centre. The rush to appraise and clear commercial cultivation of the genetically modified (GM) Mustard has brought him to Jantar Mantar in Delhi on Tuesday, to join hundreds from across the country who are demanding that there should be no commercial cultivation of GM Mustard.
"What is this hurry for? We have never had a GM food crop in any field across the country and suddenly they (Centre) want to clear this (GM) Mustard crop. There is no guarantee that it will not harm pollination, honeybees or that it will ensure high yield," said Singh. Major farm unions such as Bharatiya Kisan Union, Bharatiya Kisan Sangh, All India Kisan Sabha and Swadeshi Jagran Manch had joined organizations such as Greenpeace India, Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture to reject the proposal to commercially cultivate GM Mustard.
The campaign is reminiscent of the one against Bt Brinjal, another genetically modified food crop that was eventually not cleared for commercial cultivation by the United Progressive Alliance.
The union environment ministry's lack of transparency in making crucial documents related to health impact of GM Mustard was another talking point among protesting farmers at Jantar Mantar. Beant Singh, 40, a Mustard farmer from Mehma Sarja, Bathinda said, "Farmers in Punjab were not even aware that confined field trials of GM Mustard were carried out in the state. If the Centre is so confident that the crop will not have any impact on human and animal health, why are they unwilling to make its bio-safety document public."
Farmers from Rajasthan, the country's top Mustard producing state said there was no way they would allow cultivation of GM Mustard even if the Centre clears it. "We have read and even seen that Bt Cotton farmers are now facing issues regarding pest attacks. Also, how will we save seeds if we start growing a hybrid crop," said Jagdish Sharma, from Morla, Tonk.
Farm union leader Rakesh Tikait of Bharatiya Kisan Union demanded a larger debate on the issue. "The way Centre wants to commercialize this is wrong. There is no discussion, no debate and no transparency. We will not let this happen. Centre should also begin labeling of imported GM products so that people are aware of GM products," Tikat told DNA.
Dhara Mustard Hybrid-11 (DMH-11) or GM Mustard was developed by Delhi University's Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants with funding from National Dairy Development Board. It is currently being appraised by the environment ministry's Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee. The hybrid's research was headed by Dr.Deepak Pental, ex-vice-chancellor of Delhi University and director of the Centre for Genetic Manipulation. Pental has claimed that GM Mustard will increased yield by 20-25 per cent and reduce India's import dependency for edible oil.
Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh's affiliate Swadeshi Jagran Manch has staunchly opposed GM Mustard.


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