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The PMO is talking the GMO language but people will fight it out

Four major committees of the Government of India, including the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture, have called for a moratorium on testing Genetically Modified (GM) food. Dr Vandana Shiva writes.

india Updated: Jul 29, 2013 01:53 IST
Dr Vandana Shiva
Dr Vandana Shiva

Four major committees of the Government of India, including the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture, have called for a moratorium on testing Genetically Modified (GM) food. Now, we also have the Technical Expert Committee (TEC) report submitted to the Supreme Court which is strong in its recommendations. Both democracy and science support a ban on GMOs.

Earlier, Jairam Ramesh as environment minister had decided to stop the testing of Bt Brinjal. Ramesh was compelled, after the series of public hearings which he thankfully attended. Why? It was because he realised that the government’s position was not backed by science; instead, science was on the side of those who called for it to not be introduced.

What we know from science is that the complexity of the DNA and gene has not been completely understood. Genetic engineering is based on the orthodox genetic reductionism, genetic determinism and the false assumption that one gene contributes to one trait. Science teaches us that a trait has contributions from many genes and the context in which the organism is. Disciplines like gene ecology and epigenetics have made genetic reductionism obsolete. Yet, the GM industry and pseudo-scientists are pushing ahead with genetic modification.

Every claim that the GMO industry made in the last 20 years has proved to be false. The first was that GM foods will be a solution to hunger and give us food security. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Vidarbha’s Bt Cotton story proves this. Monsanto had promised 1500 kg per acre when it started trials; the yield today is 400 kg per acre. The second was that pesticide use will reduce; there has been a 13-fold rise, the bollworm became resistant to pesticides and new pests emerged.

Even in the US, the use of herbicides has gone up by 15 per cent with GM crops. Pests have become super-pests, weeds have become super-weeds. There’s evidence that GMOs are killing beneficial species both in the soil and our gut. Finally, it’s seed monopoly. GMOs mean patents, patents mean royalties. That’s why GMOs are being pushed. It’s a fact that 95 per cent of cotton seed in India is now owned by Monsanto.

On purely scientific basis, India should not have GMOs or GM foods but there seem to be extraneous reasons.

I would say that the PMO is bulldozing us, as a nation, into doing what’s not backed by evidence and what should never be done. The PMO is pushing the GMO agenda, especially GM foods, because it’s a commitment he made, under the Indo-US Agriculture Knowledge Initiative, to the US government. So, the PMO is talking the language of the GMO industry.

There are others like Sharad Pawar who pushes for GMO even though he has been totally countered by data. He is too close to the GM lobby, to Monsanto, to take an independent view. There are industry-led lobby groups who are paid to peddle the industry’s version. And, the government does not listen to independent voices and look at scientific evidence.

On no count is genetic engineering delivering on its promises. GMO technology has proved to be inefficient compared to all available alternatives. If we allow this technology to wipe out our biodiversity, farmers, food security, society, it would be a crime.

Now that Monsanto and Blackwater, a private military, have joined forces it’s even more dangerous. They will use all undemocratic means to mobilise the market here. The BRAI Bill is an example. They have made seed their weapon of control.

GMOs have unleashed seed wars and food wars. GMO technology and GM foods are non-sustainable scientifically, politically and environmentally. We will fight it out.

(as told to Smruti Koppikar)

Dr Vandana Shiva is a world-renowned physicist, environmentalist and free seeds activist who runs Navdanya

First Published: Jul 29, 2013 01:51 IST