Amid reports of clearance given to GM mustard by a government panel, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has sought intervention of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to overrule the approval considering its ill effects on human health.
In a letter to the Prime Minister, Kumar has sought Modi's intervention to immediately overrule the clearance to GM mustard seeds given by a technical panel of the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee. He expressed apprehension that approval to GM mustard would open a gate to several genetically modified food crops being developed by public as well private-research bodies like GM rice, maize, rice, brinjal, wheat, tomato among others which are at various stages of approval process.
Kumar said GM mustard was a herbicide tolerant (HT) crop. Any gene making the plant resistant to a herbicide locks farmers into using select brands of agro-chemicals. The full adverse implications of HT crops are apparent world over. “It is unclear why this herbicide tolerant (HT) GM mustard, which seeks to promote itself as a hybridisation technology, is even being considered by the Government of India when we already have non-GM hybrids available?” he wondered.
He said, “I had already writtent to Union forest minister in January, 2016 pointing out that when the interested parties have failed to win the confidence of the farmers of the country, they are pushing the technology through public institutions. It is surprising that this so called public sector GM mustard came into being a year after a MNC's GM mustard was rejected by the Indian regulators in 2002.”
Strongly opposing genetic modification of crops, the Bihar Chief Minister told the Prime Minister that Bt cotton, which had been cultivated in the country for 15 years now demonstrated amply that GM was a failed technology. “Bollworm, a cotton pest for which GM technology was brought in for pest control has developed resistance against the Bt cotton and is able to survive and wreak havoc on Bt cotton crop. Thousands of farmers have incurred losses in the country due to this,” he told the Prime Minister in the letter.
Reminding Modi about stress given by him on cooperative federalism and need to uphold federal policy, he said, “This issue of GM crops is an important area where this has to be demonstrated urgently.”