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Farmer unions demand that GM event developer be made legally liable for illegal GM crop cultivation

A Delegation also met with the GEAC officials in MoEFCC on July 12th 2019 to put forward their demands for regulatory improvements.

ET Bureau|
Jul 15, 2019, 03.52 PM IST
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PUNE: I a press release issued today, prominent farmer leaders of India have cautioned the government that if it does not take strong action to stop illegal GM crop cultivation, they would be forced to take up country-wide agitations. Releasing a letter written to the apex regulatory body for gene technologies, Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC), they demanded that the event developer be made legally liable for any illegal GM crop cultivation in the country.

“We will strongly resist any move to bring in GM crops into the country, including through illegal cultivation, as was the case with Bt cotton in India. This is a clear case where government has to take a sane policy decision, using a precautionary approach and ensure that GMOs do not jeopardise our environmental sustainability, or farmer livelihoods or consumer health”, said Yudhvir Singh of Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU).

Badrinarayan Chaudhary of Bhartiya Kisan Sangh (BKS) asked the government not to fall prey to fake farmers’ organisations and their demands in favour of GM crops. “This is a case of failed and hazardous technologies that are trying to be introduced through a backdoor route, entrapping desperate and poor farmers. The ones who are encouraging farmers to opt for, and grow illegal GM seeds are actually taking an anti-national step and in a way, this is bio-terrorism. We, as aware farmer unions, who are working for the benefit of farmers, demand that the government take strong measures to curb the spread of illegal GM seeds in India”, he said.

“Our regulators need to ensure that their primary mandate, that of protecting citizens from the risks of modern biotechnology, is fulfilled fully. We need standard operating procedures to be put into place to make sure that every concerned agency knows its duties and what it has to do when illegal GM cultivation is discovered. We need our labs to be better equipped with all primers and protocols for all events in the experimental pipeline being deposited, so that liability can be fixed squarely on event developers for any GM seed leakage. We need a rule to be notified under the Environment Protection Act 1986 to clearly fix liability on event developers”, said Kapil Shah of Jatan, Gujarat.

Kavitha Kuruganti of Coalition for a GM-Free India said that stopping the sales of glyphosate will go a long way in curbing the spread of illegal GM HT cotton seed. “This step is much-needed not only to ensure that illegal GM cultivation can be restricted, but also because glyphosate has many harmful impacts on human health and environment. In fact, we need the government to institute a new scheme to support agricultural labour operations, by using the MGNREGS implementation apparatus to create win-win solutions for farmers and agricultural workers”, she said.

A letter signed by several farmer union leaders, including the BJP Kisan Morcha, Bhartiya Kisan Sangh, Bharatiya Kisan Union, Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha, Agragami Kisan Sabha, AIKKS and Swadeshi Jagaran Manch to the Chairperson of Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee was released to the media, which included a demand to bring new gene technologies like Genome Editing under the purview of regulations under EPA 1989 Rules in India. A Delegation also met with the GEAC officials in MoEFCC on July 12th 2019 to put forward their demands for regulatory improvements.
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