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Hazards of GM Crops

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In an extremely unfortunate, biased and costly decision, the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC), India’s biotech regulator, has decided to approve GM (genetically modified) mustard. Hence, India has come one step closer to the possibility of commercial cultivation of GM food crops. This move has been widely resisted by farmers’ organisations, and health and social activists supported by several scientists.

An eminent group of scientists from various countries who constitute the Independent Science Panel has concluded after examining all aspects of GM crops that “GM crops have failed to deliver the promised benefits and are posing escalating problems on the farm. Transgenic contamination is now widely acknowledged to be unavoidable, and hence there can be no co-existence of GM and non-GM agriculture. Most important of all, GM crops have not been proven safe. On the contrary, sufficient evidence has emerged to raise serious safety concerns, that if ignored could result in irreversible damage to health and the environment. GM crops should be firmly rejected now.”

In April 2009, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) published a report titled “Failure to Yield” confirming that “after 20 years of research and 13 years of commercialization, GM crops have failed to increase yields” and that “traditional breeding outperforms genetic engineering hands down.”

One might wonder why GM crops spread in the United States (US), even though several scientists (in addition to farmers and activists) have opposed GM organisms (GMOs). A complaint that the US Securities and Exchange Commission had filed in the US courts hints at the various forces responsible for this. The complaint stated that a leading GMO company had bribed 140 officials between 1997 and 2000 to obtain environmental clearances for its products. The company admitted this charge and paid a penalty of $1.5 million.

Linkages between officials and GMO companies can be seen in several instances in India as well. For example, the illegal release of GMOs in the first place, and the way in which estimates of damages suffered by the Bt cotton crop were brought down. Unknown to most people and even neighbourhood farmers, several highly unsafe and questionable trials of GM crops were permitted. The efforts of multi-national corporations (MNCs) to penetrate, influence, corrupt and dominate national farm research are another serious concern.

The recently approved GM mustard is not directly linked to any MNC, but everyone knows who will benefit once GM food crops are allowed. MNCs are waiting with their list of GM food crops. Hence, GM mustard is being used as a trojan horse to clear the way for the invasion of Indian agriculture by MNCs.

Bharat Dogra

NEW DELHI

Updated On : 19th May, 2017

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