By: Akhilesh Sharma

NEW DELHI Four law-makers of the ruling BJP have reportedly opted out of a junket to the US organised by seed giant Monsanto. The week-long study tour begins tomorrow; 15 MPs from various parties were invited. 

Sources said the BJP members of Parliament opted out after they were told by the party that they could not be part of the tour, following media reports.

Last month the BJP-led NDA government put field trials of 13 genetically-modified (GM) crops on hold reportedly after two affiliates of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh or the RSS – Swadeshi Jagaran Manch (SJM) and the Bharatiya Kisan Sangh (BKS) raised objections. 

The RSS is the ideological mentor of the BJP and through a major revamp in the organisation recently, is seen as having strengthened its hold over the party. 

It is not clear yet whether law-makers of the BJP's allies in the government like the Shiv Sena, will go on the tour. 

Monsanto, which is involved in GM trials, has been quoted in media reports as saying that the tour has no connection with the government's decision to put the GM crop trials on hold. The MPs will attend a "Farm Progress Show" in Iowa and also visit the headquarters of the company in Missouri. 

The trip will cost an estimated $6,000 (Rs. 363,540) per head for travel, food and accommodation, according to a Monsanto spokesperson, who confirmed the company would bear these costs.

"A committed partner to Indian agriculture for the past five decades, Monsanto has invited a delegation comprising media, farmers, industry representatives and Parliamentarians from across political parties and states to visit the Farm Progress Show (FPS) event in the United States," Monsanto said in a statement.

"In engaging with stakeholders, Monsanto follows all the prescribed local rules and regulations, as well as internationally mandated norms. We also expect, in good faith, that our invited guests, on their part, have got necessary approvals from relevant authorities," the statement added.

On July 29, Environment & Forests Minister Prakash Javadekar had halted the field trials, overruling the recommendations of the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee. His decision reversed the previous Congress-led UPA government's push for trials of GM crops. 

In its election manifesto this year, the BJP said GM foods will be allowed only after scientific evaluation of their long term effects.

Originally Published: NDTV