Bihar: Ex-agri minister urges CM Nitish Kumar to ban GM mustard; threatens stir
Sudhakar Singh said that GM mustard can have disastrous consequences, especially on small and marginal farmers of Bihar
Former Bihar agriculture minister Sudhakar Singh on Wednesday raised concerns of the genetically modified (GM) mustard seed – DMH-11 – on farming and the environment, and wrote to chief minister Nitish Kumar for a total ban on its testing and marketing in the state.
Singh said that GM mustard can have disastrous consequences, especially on small and marginal farmers of Bihar.
“With GEAC again giving its nod to GM mustard seed without proper tests of its efficacy, I urge you to take immediate cognisance of it and stop its sowing at all the centres of the Indian Council for Agriculture Research (ICAR) within state. I demand that this be completely banned in Bihar and the Centre be apprised of the state’s stand, else farmers would launch agitation before all the ICAR centres in the state to prevent its cultivation. The GEAC’s move to grant permission to GM mustard seed without proper checks is unprecedented and against the laid down provisions. It requires prior discussion with farmers’ bodies and social organisations. It needs to be properly debated in the legislature and parliamentary committees, as it will directly impact farmers across the country. However, there was no farmers’ representative in the GEAC,” Singh wrote in the letter, as reviewed by HT.
Maintaining that the Supreme Court has taken cognisance of the matter on November 3 and status quo has to be maintained, Singh said that the Bihar government had written to the Centre four times since March 4, 2011 (the others in January 2016, and May and October 2017).
Citing the three letters from the Bihar government to the ministry of forests and climate change and the fourth one to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Singh, who had to quit Nitish Kumar cabinet, wrote that the state government must stick to its consistent and clear stand on the matter.
“I am writing it to you to once again draw your attention to it. Bihar is an agriculture state, with mustard a prime cash crop, and the move to introduce GM mustard would have fatal consequences on environment, farming, economy etc... It also affects some species of bees, which are important for fruit and vegetable cultivation. Besides, it will also affect honey production. In 2013, the SC had set up a technical expert committee, which recommended that there should be embargo on testing and marketing of GM seeds till a foolproof system is evolved to check their efficacy,” he added.
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The apex court will hear the case on Thursday following an appeal by activist Aruna Rodrigues, challenging the approval from the genetic engineering approval committee (GEAC), under the ministry of forests and climate change, for the commercial cultivation of GM mustard and subsequent ministry’s nod for its environmental release.
The Centre assured the court that it will not take any precipitative action in the meantime.
Singh said that many hybrid varieties of mustard are already being used in the state and they have higher yield than GM seeds. “GM seed promises yield of 2626 kg/hectare, while higher yielding varieties of seeds, like NDDB, DMH-4 etc., produced by indigenous research institutes are already there. They could give yield of up to 3012 kg/hectare. So, the incentive of higher yield is not there, while there is a possibility of international companies establishing their monopoly in the Indian seed market by killing the market of indigenous seeds. This will also increase the input cost and make farmers dependent on GM seeds. GM seeds are already banned in many nations. I am writing for united opposition to GM seeds to all the political parties and legislators and MPs. Bihar farmers need encouragement with facilities, marketing committees and minimum support price to give far better results than GM seeds,” he further wrote.
Singh said that the argument given in favour of GM seeds that it will require less pesticides was also not based on facts. “It was proved in case of GM seed and BT cotton, as it was found to be consuming 37% more pesticides, contrary to pre-introduction claims in 2002. This can also increase the risk of cancer. The same happened in the case of BT brinjal, as the lofty claims of reduced input cost and higher yield were proved wrong... In Maharashtra and Gujarat, many farmers committed suicide after suffering huge losses,” he added.