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HindustanTimes Wed,20 Aug 2014

Harsimrat asked to stand up against GM crop trials in state

HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times  Bathinda, March 09, 2014
First Published: 19:00 IST(9/3/2014) | Last Updated: 19:03 IST(9/3/2014)

The Punjab chapter of the Coalition for GM Free India has asked Bathinda MP Harsimrat Kaur Badal to convince the Punjab government against the genetically modified (GM) crops and dissuade the government from allowing field trials of GM crops.

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The appeal to the MP was made at a public dialogue held in the Teachers' Home here on Sunday to address concerns about GM crops.

The public dialogue was organised under the ongoing campaign for public awareness against GM crops and their GM food items. Speakers at the dialogue urged the Bathinda MP to intervene to stop open field trials of GM crops in the state.

"Harsimrat Kaur Badal was a member of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on agriculture, which has strongly recommended a cautious approach on field trials of GM crops in India," Umendra Dutt of Kheti Virasat Mission from Punjab said.

Dutt said: "We have information that the Punjab government has been considering to allow field trials of GM crops in Punjab. Harsimrat has properly studied implications of the move while she was part of the parliamentary standing committee. So, she must convince the state government against any such move."

"The environment minister has gone ahead and approved nearly 200 GM field trials, including that of GM varieties of rice, wheat, maize and other crops, which have a huge potential to contaminate our seed and food supply.

The government has approved these trials in spite of growing scientific evidence on adverse impacts of GM crops on health, biodiversity and environment. In Punjab, these trials are a huge threat as wheat is a staple crop here," Neha Saigal, senior campaigner, Greenpeace India, said while addressing the meeting.

She said that China recently banned the use of this technology for its staple food crops. "Experience with the only GM crop, BT cotton, has shown that GM crops benefit multinational seed companies and none else. The Malwa region had already been reeling under consequences of Green Revolution in terms of cancer, polluted groundwater and environmental toxicity. BT cotton has further aggravated the situation," Umendra Dutt said.

He warned that if the government goes ahead with permitting GM field trials in the state, the situation of environmental toxicity and contamination of food items would  be alarming.

Prof RK Mahajan, economist in Punjabi University, said: "GM crops are one of the greatest threats to food safety and consumer choice and we reject vies of all those who stand for GM crops."

GM crops would impact everyone and that all must together fight this controversial technology to keep farms and food safe, he added.

Farmers, social activists, consumers and students participated in the dialogue.

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