24 Jan 2009 NEW DELHI: Farmers and experts have called for a moratorium on genetically modified (GM) crops in the country in view of established related health and environmental hazards. Charging the key regulatory body of "compromising" its fundamental brief of securing public health and safety in the context of GM crops, they have called for a stop on the introduction of both GM Brinjal and GM rice.
Criticizing the lack of appropriate regulations and the haste to release GM crops in the environment, the founder-director of the Hyderabad-based Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology and the Supreme Court's nominee in the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee GEAC), Dr Pushpa M Bhargava told presspersons here that the GEAC was not sufficiently enabled to oversee/regulate approvals and ensure health and environmental safety.
Dr Bhargava charged the GEAC has allowed field trials and release of GMOs without any proper biosafety measures. Noted farmer leader and the President of Bharatiya Krishak Samaj, Dr Krishan Bir Chaudhary, also at the meeting, alleged that the government has allowed and encouraged the seed companies and multinationals like Monsanto to take over seeds, thus negating the farmers' sovereign rights over seeds. Such a situation would lead to food security problem and endanger the livelihood of farmers, he said.
He said that farmers have suffered heavy losses due to failure of Bt cotton in many parts of the country. The incidence of mealy bug and other pests on Bt cotton had exploded the hollow claims of GM technology, he maintained, adding that Bt cotton has resulted in low yields and led to largescale sheep mortality in cotton fields. The incidence of sheep mortality had shown that any food crop containing Bt gene can cause health hazards, he said, urging the government to stop release of Bt brinjal. Introduction of Bt rice would damage country's export prospects, particularly that of Basmati rice he said.
Jeffrey Smith, author of the best selling "Genetic Roulette and Seeds of Deception" supported Dr P M Bhargava's contention that regulatory oversight has been compromised. He added that even Food and Drug Administration [FDA] in the USA is also responsible for lack of oversight.
Both Dr Bhargava and Dr Chaudhury charged that there was a dangerous nexus between regulatory authorities, bureaucrats, politicians and multinational corporations which can utterly compromise the health of Indian people.