The Swadeshi Jagran Manch- a social organisation affiliated to the Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh-has condemned plans leading to possible commercialisation of genetically-modified mustard. 

“Swadeshi Jagaran Manch reiterates its long pending demands:- a) No permission (be) granted for the commercial production of GM Mustard b) Data emanating from field trials conducted so far be made public so as to allow scientific analysis of the same,” says a letter by Ashwani Mahajan, National Convenor, SJM, to Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar. The note is available on the organisation’s website. 

“We may repeat that GM technology is neither increasing the yield of the crops nor is it in any way decreasing the miseries of the farming community. On the other hand it enhances serious risks to the health of consumers as well as that of the soil. It also increases the cost of cultivation manifold, while transferring the same to corporate as immoral profits,” the note added. The organisation has previously objected to genetically-modified brinjal, that was cleared by the GEAC in 2010 but put on hold by then environment minister Jairam Ramesh. 

The Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC), which examines the scientific merits of releasing genetically modified seeds into the environment, will consider Friday making public the results of tests and studies so far conducted to test the safety of transgenic (or GM) mustard. 

The organisation’s comments come even as several farmers’ groups and environmental activist organisations have protested the GEAC plans to allow GM mustard on farmer fields. “There is a scientific panel of experts that’s considering this … there is a lot of data but there are still some outstanding questions. We will take our time on this,” said a top official in the Ministry of Environment and Forests and Climate Change, requesting anonymity citing the sensitivity of the issue. The GEAC is constituted by the Environment Ministry. 

A group of scientists, under the banner of GM Free India has also written to Javadekar Thursday condemning GM mustard. “There are many pending issues related to GM crops and their regulation in India – including examination of the entire biosafety assessment regime and its ability to actually protect India’s environment and citizens’ health from the risks of modern biotechnology – reeks of sinister motives that don’t favour ordinary citizens’ interests. We also understand that the current processes undertaken by the regulators are actually defying Supreme Court and Central Information Commission Orders in terms of transparency and independence of regulation.”

Originally Published: The Hindu