Farmers’ unions and civil society groups in Madhya Pradesh have expressed opposition against the Central government’s possible move to introduce genetically modified (GM) mustard for commercial cultivation and have warned of strong street action if the process is not stopped.
Addressing a press conference on Friday, the representatives of the groups urged the MP government to write to the Central government ‘to caution it against approval to commercialization of GM mustard.’
Nilesh Desai of the Beej Swaraj Abhiyan pointed out that the state government already has an organic farming policy in place, which states that GM crops would not be allowed in the state.
“The Madhya Pradesh government was proactive in the Bt Brinjal case and stood firmly with the best interests of farmers and consumers when it wrote to the Centre against its introduction five years ago. Subsequently, it also put in place an organic farming policy that seeks to put into place lasting, farmer-centric sustainable solutions in our agriculture, to improve farm livelihoods. In such situation, it should immediately write to the Centre again,” Desai said.
“GM mustard is mainly meant to facilitate the seed production processes of seed companies and will not impart any additional benefit to farmers or consumers. We would like to remind the government of India that a policy directive already exists that transgenic option should be considered only if other alternatives are not available or feasible,” said Kavitha Kuruganti, the co-convenor of the coalition for a GM-free India.
“Madhya Pradesh is one of the largest growers of mustard in India, and any approval of GM mustard will contaminate all non-GM varieties of mustard crops,” said Kapilbhai Shah, secretary of organic farming association of India.
The principal secretary of farmers’ welfare and agriculture development department, Rajesh Rajora said that the state government has already refused to give consent to field trials of GM mustard and GM chana.
“We did this because there is no literature available to prove that GM food grains are not harmful and they would have no detrimental effect on environment. Our stand would be similar on commercial cultivation when the matter comes before us,” he said.
Sources said that the state government is also wary of the fact that introduction of GM mustard or chana would harm the prospects of small and marginal farmers and could lead to monopoly of seed companies.