On 9th August 2012 the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture tabled its exhaustive report titled, 'Cultivation of genetically modified food crops - prospects and effects' in Parliament. The Panel has strongly rejected the use of genetically modified (GM) crops in India and even concluded that Bt cotton was a failure and did not help farmers in the least. Greenpeace supports the Parliamentary Committee’s findings and conclusions and demands that the Indian government take their recommendations seriously and act on them immediately.
The 492 page exhaustive report was completed over a period of two and half years. The panelists travelled across the country and consulted various stakeholders including farmers, farmer union leaders, biotechnology industry representatives, relevant departments in the Union government, State governments, scientists and civil society members. Releasing the report, Chairperson of the committee, Basudeb Acharia said, “The committee has come to the conclusion that since concerns on the potential and actual impacts of GM crops to our food, farming, health and environment are valid, GM crops are just not the right solution for our country.”
The committee also held a public consultation at Yavatmal in Vidarbha to assess the role Bt cotton played in the agrarian crisis. The report concluded that Bt cotton did not improve the socio-economic condition of cotton farmers in the country at all. In fact it had furthered their distress, especially in the rain-fed areas and the largest number of suicides was reported from areas where Bt cotton was used.
10 August 2012
Seed companies promise that pesticides are not required, but they still need to be used, as seen here at a Bt cotton field. © Peter Caton / Greenpeace
Condemning the manner in which the Union government has been promoting GM crops Acharia said, “The government should stop parroting the promotional lines of the biotechnology and seed industry and their cronies within the technocracy and stand by scientific reasoning and greater public good.”
The committee also recommended the discontinuation of open field trials due to the danger of contamination. This validates many of the cases of field trial violations and contamination that Greenpeace has brought to light over the last 10 years. Significantly, open air field trials of Monsanto’s GM maize are currently underway in Punjab and Haryana.
Neha Saigal, Sustainable Agriculture campaigner, Greenpeace India said, “The standing committee report exposes the serious gaps in our country's GM regulatory system and the lopsided GM technology promotion policies of the government”. She added that it is high time our government prioritises the welfare of its citizens over profit motivated seed companies- the only ones benefiting from GM crops.
This parliamentary committee report has great significance as it comes at a time when the Union government is trying hard to introduce a new regulatory system for GM crops called Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India (BRAI) bill. The report points at the grave inadequacies of the current regulatory system on GM crops and the proposed BRAI mechanism by the Government. The committee recommends a regulatory body that will not act as a clearing house for the approval of products of modern biotechnology but has bio-safety as its main mandate and ensures that our food, farming and environment are not negatively impacted by such risky technologies as GM crops.
Note: Link to Greenpeace critique of BRAI bill http://www.greenpeace.org/india/Global/india/report/BRAI-Critique-Report.pdf