Environment minister Prakash Javadekar has been in a bind over the future of genetically modified food crops as the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) wants field trials — an important step before commercial release — of GM crops to be fast-tracked while the RSS affiliate groups are opposing any such move.
The environment ministry was in the process of giving approval to field trials of 15 GM crops including chicken pea, rice and brinjal when RSS affiliated organizations Swadeshi Jagran Manch (SJM) and Bhartiya Kisan Sangh (BKS) approached Javadekar and opposed approval to the trials.
“Until the issues concerning GM crops are addressed, no approval should be given,” Ashwini Mahajan, national convenor of SJM said. Mahajan’s words were echoed by lawyer Prashant Bhushan in a letter to Javadekar. Bhushan has argued against the GM crops in a public interest litigation filed with the Supreme Court.
Many other left oriented anti-GM crop groups have written to Javadekar opposing any approval to open field trials of GM crops, bringing Left and Right wing organisations together on the issue.
But ministry officials told HT that it was in the process of giving final approval to the field trials of some GM crops recommended by the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee, country’s bio-tech regulator.
“There was pressure on fast clearance of the varieties and therefore the files were processed,” an official said. Former environment minister, Jayanthi Natarajan, had kept the trials in abeyance citing a Supreme Court order, a claim later refuted by the ministry.
Gujarat, with Narendra Modi as chief minister, was among the first states to issue ‘no objection’ to allowing field trials of GM crops.
Maharashtra and Punjab also allowed the trials. Many others like Bihar and Karnataka have refused trials and on Thursday, Tamil Nadu joined the club too.