Greenpeace activists unfurled a banner with the message ‘Say NO to GM, YES to Food Security’, along with Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar’s picture, at the FCI godown in Delhi.
“So is there any scientific evidence on the negative impacts of GM crops?” This is a question that all of us who campaign against GM crops get to hear on any regular day. Be it from the aam aadmi (common man) that we try to engage with and mobilise, the policy maker that we try to caution or a journalist that we try to alert on the issue of GM crops and GM food. Every time we highlight many a studies that we have come across. For the first time the coalition for GM free India, of which we are also a part, has come up with a comprehensive response to this in the form of a compilation of more than 300 peer reviewed papers on the various impacts of GM crops impacting human health, that of biodiversity and farm livelihoods.
Peer reviewed papers are considered as gold standards in the scientific world, and the fact that there are hundreds of them pointing to the negative impacts of GM crops is telling. The writing on the wall is clear - GM crops are risky. As many of us keep saying there is no dearth of evidences against GM crops, what is required, is the eyes to see it, the wisdom to understand it and the conscience to accept it.
As the coalition, in the foreword to the compilation, says, “This is by no means an exhaustive compilation but only illustrative, the so called ‘tip of the iceberg'.” That this comes at a time when the government of India, led by the Union Minister of Agriculture, Sharad Pawar, is out on a limb to promote GM crops makes it timely to reiterate the fact that there is more than enough evidence and experience from across the world to say No to GM crops.
It is interesting to see that looking at the growing evidence on the negative impacts of GM crops, there is propagation of the myth of desperation to have them to feed the growing population in our country. An earlier briefing by Greenpeace India had burst this myth as well.
March 26th, 2013 marked the 11th year of approval of Bt cotton, the only GM crop that has been approved for commercial cultivation in India. It also marks the 11 years of deception that the biotech seed industry and their cronies and the government have pulled off on our farmers. Though there was the initial brouhaha around Bt cotton with none other than Sharad Pawar leading it, talking about the doubling of cotton production due to the introduction of Bt cotton, the official figures and a response in the Rajya Sabha given by his deputy minister in the on-going budget session of Parliament shows that there has been no significant increase in cotton production due to the introduction of Bt cotton.
A BT Cotton variety in Andhra Pradesh engineered to produce a toxin to kill some pests. But farmers still need to use large amounts of chemical pesticides.
The challenge before the nation and its citizens is to see through this game plan of giving away the control of our seeds and hence our agriculture and our food into the hands of a few multinational seed companies, led by the biggest and worst of them the American seed-agrochemical giant Monsanto. What they are here for is clear - profit. What is not clear is why our own government and some of the public sector scientific institutions are promoting this.
The country is at a juncture where we cannot afford any distraction from the serious business of sustainable farming and food security. GM crops are not just a distraction but a grave threat to both.
Rajesh Krishnan is a sustainable agriculture campaigner at Greenpeace India.