Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Mar 25:
Angry and upset over the recent decision of the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee ( GEAC) of the Government of India to allow field trials of 11 new varieties of genetically-modified (GM) crops, a group of anti- GM crusaders in Odisha led by Devajit Sarangi has dashed off a petition to the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) V Sampath calling the move a violation of the model code of conduct and urging him to ask the Government of India to put such a decision on hold, “as what is at stake is not just the sanctity of democratic processes, but also the future of food, farming and environment of our country”.
In the petition Sarangi said the act by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India by giving a go-ahead to the contentious and highly controversial proposal for field trial of GM crops violates the model code of conduct and might affect the purity of the upcoming national elections.
“You might be aware of the growing debate around Genetically Modified (GM) crops in the country. GM Crops as a new technology in agriculture is being opposed across the country and globally also due to their potential adverse impacts on human health, environment as well as farm livelihoods. A compilation of the more than 450 scientific papers on these adverse impacts was recently published ,” the petition said.
Sating that the promoters of this technology are global seed companies who stand to gain immensely from royalties as well as control of seed markets through this patentable technology, Sarangi said in his petition that the growing scientific evidence as well as recommendations from the Parliamentary Standing Commitee on Agriculture as well as the Supreme Court appointed Technical Expert Committee (TEC), which was made up of eminent experts from various fields had persuaded the previous minister for Environment and Forests, Smt Jayanti Natarajan to withhold all open releases of GM crops including those in the name of experimental field trials until the hon’ble Supreme Court takes a final view on the matter in its next hearing slated for the 14th of April,2014.
” Instead of following this responsible position, the government replaced Jayanti Natarajan with Sri Veerappa Moily who has gone ahead with a promotional pitch for GM crops,” Sarangi rued.
” What is outrageous is also that Mr Moily declared that he has approved hundreds of field trials of GM crops in an official press conference in Delhi on 27th February, just 3 working days days before the hon’ble Election Commission was to declare the National election dates and put in place the model code of conduct.,” the perition complained.
The petition said it wished to bring to the attention of the Election Commission that the announcement by the minister has come as a huge and undesirable concession to the seed Industry and the share prices of multinational companies like Monsanto have increased many times over after the decision.
“We have learnt that the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC), under the ministry of Environment and Forest, which is the nodal agency to approve any open releases of GM crops including for field trials,met on the 21st of March and approved more such field trials, which would further benefit the seed companies. This will immediately lead to further increase in share prices of those companies like Monsanto, whose GM crops have for permission for field trials”, the petition said.
Sarangi said there are reasons to believe that this is being done at the instruction of the present government for a quid pro quo and the ‘benefits’ would accrue to the ruling party and the minister in charge during the election period, something that would have an undesirable impact on the purity of the election process.
The petition has urged the Election Commission to direct GEAC and the ministry of Environment and Forest to withhold permissions for those field trials that have been granted and also to stop granting of permissions for any field trials in the upcoming meeting tomorrow ( 26 March) until the election process are over and results declared.